“Reporters Shield” Launches on World Press Freedom Day
New program helps defend media outlets against vexatious lawsuits.
To confront the growing threat of vexatious lawsuits intended to harass and silence independent media worldwide, Reporters Shield launches today as a new membership program defending investigative journalism against such lawsuits, known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPs.
Corrupt and criminal figures file SLAPPs to threaten, intimidate, and financially burden journalists. Fighting them entails paying expensive attorneys, suffering years of emotional stress, and spending enormous amounts of time on defense, distracting journalists from their work. As a result, media outlets are often forced to avoid reporting about litigious subjects, and may preemptively take down stories when receiving legal threats.
Reporters Shield will help its members limit litigation risk, respond to legal threats, and defend against SLAPPs.
“Journalists around the world are facing increased legal harassment, and now they don’t have to go it alone,” said Reporters Shield’s startup director, Peter Noorlander. “Reporters Shield is a coordinated global solution that will counter SLAPP threats and work to support press freedom, democracy, and the free flow of information that the public needs to make decisions.”
To join, media organizations must meet certain criteria and pay an annual fee to ensure that the program is sustainable. Reporters Shield is accepting applications worldwide and will be reviewing them in phases. Phase I includes most countries in South America, North America, Europe, and Central Asia. Membership for other regions will become available later this year and in 2024. Visit the Reporters Shield website for more information about how to become a member.
A U.S.-based nonprofit organization, Reporters Shield was developed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, with assistance and support from insurance specialists. The law firms of Proskauer, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP provided pro bono legal support.
USAID is contributing up to $9 million in seed funding for Reporters Shield to support non-U.S. media. Private donor contributions will fund support for U.S. media.
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