Ecumenical news agency ENInews suspended, editors removed

December 20, 2010

genevaEcumenical News International, an award-winning agency reporting on religion and based at the World Council of Churches (WCC), has been temporarily closed and had its two top editors removed, one of them said on Monday. The decision, taken at a meeting of its executive committee last week, comes after the Geneva-based WCC cut the agency’s funding and its former head criticised its coverage.

The suspension and leadership changes led to the resignation of the ENInews president and its treasurer, both senior figures in Scandinavian Protestant churches, a report by the agency said. WCC officials said the agency was not being closed but would resume some time in 2011 with one part-time editor.

(Photo: Geneva, April 29, 2008/Valentin Flauraud)

Earlier this year the WCC, which has been ENInews’s main funder and in whose headquarters the agency was based, said it was reducing its financial support for 2011 by over 50 percent.

The WCC is an umbrella body linking Protestant and Orthodox churches around the globe. An acting spokesman for the organisation told Reuters on Monday that the funding decision was “part of a broad redeployment of WCC resources” and had been a “key element in decisions related to the re-shaping of ENInews.”

The cash cut came in the wake of complaints by the WCC’s former Kenyan general secretary Samuel Kobia of “inaccuracy” and “sensationalism” in coverage of the body by ENInews — which had run reports from an authoritative German religious news service that he had falsely claimed an academic degree. WCC sources said at the time that the affair effectively blocked Kobia from seeking a second four-year term.

ENInews, which ran a network of some 50 correspondents around the globe, had also angered some WCC officials by revealing the list of candidates to replace Kobia in advance of a meeting of the body’s central committee in 2009.

According to a story about the closing on its website, “the financial instability for ENInews began on 6 May when the WCC wrote to ENInews president (Anders) Gadegaard announcing a cutback in its financial support for the agency in 2011.  Two days later in Washington DC, ENInews won an award from the Associated Church Press for being the best news agency covering religion, and another top award for courageous reporting related to the WCC, as well as two other awards for feature stories published.”

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I give you my assurance that the new editorial team at ENInews, which will begin work in the new year, will strive to build on the excellent work of the former team and will ensure that ENInews continues to be a respected, independent voice in the field of religion reporting.
David Harris, acting publisher, ENInews 2011

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