What We do
Our core mission is to help journalists and media outlets defend legal cases against them. We do this by making sure that journalists and media outlets have the best available legal representation.
Where necessary, we can help pay legal fees, and we can also provide legal back-up to the lawyer(s) defending a case and link them with our global network of specialist media lawyers. Journalists or media outlets in need of legal support can contact us directly for an emergency grant or other form of assistance.
We also support the development of national organisations that provide legal defence services to journalists, particularly in countries where there is a high and ongoing threat of legal cases against journalists. For example, we provide financial grants to the Mass Media Defence Center in Russia and the legal aid unit of the Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda.
We have a high rate of success. Overall, we are able to win or get claims against journalists withdrawn in more than 75% of cases. Our partners are equally successful. Recent wins include million dollar libel threats against US-based Nigerian corruption website Sahara Reporters; acquittals for Ugandan journalists prosecuted on trumped-up treason charges; the defeat of publishing bans in Malaysia; and rulings at the UN and domestic courts invalidating criminal libel. Several of these wins have long-term impact and changed the law to allow greater freedom of expression.
These legal wins allow the journalists involved in the cases to focus on what they are good at: reporting on issues of public interest. The importance of their work has not gone unnoticed. Ugandan radio broadcasters who we helped defeat libel and incitement of hatred charges have been awarded a human rights defenders prize for their continuing reporting on human rights issues. The Kenyan journalist we helped defeat trumped up bribery charges was recently awarded a State Commendation for his services to the fight against corruption. The Thai, Malaysian, Nigerian and Zambian websites we and our partners help fight legal charges are all able to concentrate on what they do best – report the news and provide the public with an independent viewpoint on current affairs – rather than being side tracked by abusive lawsuits.
As well as fight legal cases, we also support the development of media law expertise and encourage lawyers to take up media cases. We do this by encouraging the formation of networks such as the Southeast Asian media defence lawyers network, as well as by supporting specialist media law workshops.
To seek assistance please click “get help with a case”, in the right-hand side column. If you have a good idea or would like to obtain funding for a legal defence programme in a country where we don't yet work, please click "funding and support for NGOs".