Reporters Without Borders LLC: Half of the French NGO’s revenue comes from grants and subsidies

Sales of photo albums and t-shirts, advertisement revenue, and millions in personnel expenditures. It sounds like a regular company, right? Well, it is indeed a business, but it is disguised as an NGO. This is the kind of data you can find in the financial statements of the French organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which claims to be a champion of freedom of speech. The documents show that the RSF, whose World Press Freedom Index is exploited by the shadowy circles in Bulgaria and the media outlets of indicted oligarchs as an instrument to exert pressure on the state, has become a hybrid between a corporation and an NGO. Behind the guise of protecting free speech and at-risk journalists, it actually accumulates money through grants and subsidies.

It is an old trick that has been used by numerous of NGOs for decades. You claim there is a problem, when in reality you create said problem by claiming that Bulgaria deserves to be at the absurd 111th spot on a free-speech ranking, far below countries where journalists are regularly killed or there is hardly any media. Then you get public funding to continue said World Press Freedom Index, killing (at least) two birds with one stone in the process. You secure a stable source of funding and you help the local organisations from which you source information for your “studies”. Such is the dynamic between Reporters Without Borders and the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria, which is made up of notorious and in some instances indicted businessmen like Ivo Prokopiev and Ognyan Donev. The latter are using journalism as a shield against investigations exposing their crimes.

This is exactly the mode of operation exhibited by the NGO network built globally by billionaire speculator George Soros, and in Bulgaria – by his local counterpart and indicted businessman Ivo Prokopiev. It quickly becomes clear why the RSF has been serving the interests of Prokopiev for years by regularly publishing manifestos in defence of the oligarch, his publications and his puppet journalists, all the while turning a blind eye to the grave violations of free speech inflicted upon media outlets that are perceived as “enemies” to the oligarchs. The RSF has become a foreign conduit for the lies spread by Prokopiev and the publications of his cronies in the oligarchic association known as Union of Publishers in Bulgaria. Just follow the grant funding and the behind-the-scenes dependencies.

The limited numbers made available on the website of the RSF show that over half of the NGO’s revenue comes from subsidies and grants. In 2018, the RSF had a total of €5,779,414 in revenue, of which €3,098,323 came from the aforementioned types of sources. It received over €1.1m from foundations and patrons like private companies. This sum is inferior to another one that represented a surprise in the financial statements of the limited liability company masquerading as an NGO – revenue from business operations. If you are wondering what kind of business operations an NGO could possibly have, here is what the paperwork says – revenue of €1,378,441 was generated in 2018 through merchandising, including sales of photo albums and t-shirts, as well as advertising materials. The highlight here are the photo albums – deluxe editions with photos offered at a price between €8 and €9.90. According to the RSF website, 24% of the NGO’s revenue, or nearly €1.3m, comes from this type of sales. For that to be true, the organisation has to sell 360 phot albums on average every day. It sounds more than implausible, but the financial supervisors have final say on that score. 

As we marvel at the revenue sources stated by the RSF, we stumble upon another absurdity – personnel expenditures. The figures for this item, as well as the report of the organisation’s chief accountant, reveal that these expenditures grew inordinately in 2018 on a year-over-year basis. Over €2.6m, or nearly half of the revenue for the year, was spent on the NGO’s massive machine engaged in toying with countries around the world by assigning them spots on a ranking compiled through non-representative questionnaires filled in by about ten “selected” individuals, as RSF President Pierre Haski admitted himself. The data shows how much of a corporate machine the organisation has become over the years. This transformation of the RSF into a machine highly dependent on subsidies and bureaucracy was the reason why one of its founders, former Doctors Without Borders President Rony Brauman left its ranks in the 1990s (See here).           


RSF admits that ten people slander Bulgaria        

Ten people. That is the number of individuals because of whom Bulgaria is stuck at the ludicrous 111th spot on the World Press Freedom Index published by the RSF, behind a series of African countries not exactly known for being democratic. The revelation as to how many people fill in the questionnaires came from none other than RSF President Pierre Haski, with whom journalists from Telegraph Media were able to meet in Paris after two years of trying to talk to anyone in the management of the French NGO. During the conversation, a transcript of which we published yesterday (See here), Haski explained, albeit with the qualification that he chairs the Administration Board and is not involved in the day-to-day running of the RSF, that these opinion polls are not meant to be representative of the media circles in the respective countries. This is why they are conducted with about ten journalists and members of the academia with a supposedly wider view of the media sector in the respective country. In Bulgaria this panel is selected by Pauline Adès-Mével, who is in charge of the RSF for Bulgaria. The same Adès-Mével who stood idly while one of the most egregious instances of censorship imposed by the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria (UPB) of Prokopiev & Co., an RSF partner, was taking place. In front of her eyes, every representative of a media outlet outside the orbit of the oligarchic publishers in Bulgaria, was tossed out of a UPB event, ironically promoted as a discussion on free speech.  

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