Knight Foundation supports international legal fund for journalists

Digital journalists to get legal help as press freedom wanes

(MAY 2, 2011) - At a time when press freedom is diminishing worldwide, bloggers and online journalists will get free legal help through a London-based effort, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Media Legal Defense Initiative will help pay for legal representation, offer advice and legal resources to lawyers and take on some important legal test cases involving digital media. 

Knight Foundation announced the $100,000 grant during the international observance of World Press Freedom Day in Washington D.C.

“The World Wide Web offers the promise of greater freedom. But in practice press freedom in the world has been shrinking since Sept. 11, 2011. Independent journalists and those who work for small organizations are particularly vulnerable,” said Jose Zamora, Knight Foundation journalism associate. “What might be needed is the right legal defender at the right time to protect the free flow of information.”

Digital journalists account for nearly half of those jailed around the globe, a 2010 survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists found. Governments increasingly are cracking down on freedom of expression – using libel, national security and counter terrorism laws – to threaten journalists and citizen journalists, stifling the free flow of information.

"That the Internet has changed everything is no less true for being a cliché, but it hasn't changed the crude tools that tyrants, repressive governments, and the well-connected use to silence the voices of freedom.  The same old threats of censorship, criminal libel and predatory litigation are alive and well in cyberspace together with the new and unique challenges of new media,” said Gugulethu Moyo, the Media Legal Defense Initiative’s executive director. “We believe that everyone - whether a traditional print or broadcast journalist, a blogger or even an everyday citizen posting on a public forum - is entitled their right of free speech free of free of unreasonable legal action.”

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Contacts:

Marc Fest, Vice President for Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, fest@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.