Legal threats and lawsuits are becoming increasingly popular as methods of attack to silence journalists.
The following organisations provide resources, advice, support and legal assistance to freelance journalists.
Media Defence (formerly MLDI) provides legal help to journalists, citizen journalists and independent media across the world. As part of their work they provide Emergency Defence to financially support cases where journalists face costly and complex litigation in an attempt to silence them.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
The RCFP provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Their services for journalists include pre-publication legal services to freelance journalists and documentary filmmakers, a legal hotline and a range of legal resources:
Cyrus R Vance Center and Press Freedom Fund
The Vance Center's Good Governance program pursues openness and honesty in government, supporting civil society and independent journalism globally to hold officials and institutions accountable. Its areas of work include advising investigative journalism organizations on issues of avoiding and defending against defamation claims, establishing joint investigations through data sharing and co-publication, and setting codes of conduct to promote safety and equal opportunity. The program is actively helping journalists in Latin America, Africa, and Europe, representing international, national, and local outlets and individual journalists.
Lawyers for Reporters provides pro bono legal assistance to local journalists and media organizations in the United States with the aim to support reporting in the public interest, particularly local journalism and social justice advocacy.
The Legal Defense Fund provides legal assistance to media professionals who have run into legal issues. The fund can provide financial assistance, for example for a lawyer or court costs. Families of imprisoned journalists who are breadwinners can also apply for financial assistance. Other support that falls under the Fund includes referrals to (pro bono) laywers, legal advice, preventative measures (such as a pre-publication analysis), prison support, and trial monitoring.
FIRE helps freelance investigative journalists to produce investigations in the public interest, primarily by providing grants and editorial services. In 2021 FIRE launched contract-related legal assistance for investigative journalists working on stories associated with English-language U.S. outlets (although freelancers may reside outside of the U.S.). The service arranges access to two experienced media attorneys to provide pro bono legal counsel on a range of contractual issues, including insurance, liability, and indemnification.
Further details and application via their website.
Reporters Without Borders and Thomson Reuters Foundation
Produced in association with international law firm, Paul Hastings LLP, this handbook provides guidance on freedom of expression and freedom of information principles in international law.