Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched Reporters Shield, a new membership program that protects journalists around the world who report in the public interest from defamation lawsuits and legal threats. Reporters Shield, established as a U.S.-based nonprofit organization by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, is a first-of-its-kind global program that defends investigative reporting around the world from legal threats meant to silence critical voices.
USAID, which has a long history of fostering the growth of independent media across the world, plans to work with Congress to contribute up to $9 million in seed funding for this groundbreaking new program to support media outside the United States.
Investigative journalists and civil society organizations reporting in the public interest are increasingly facing lawsuits that aim to harass and silence them by burdening them with the cost and time of a legal defense until they abandon their stories or go out of business entirely. Reporters Shield will help to reduce these risks through training and pre-publication review, as well as funding legal representation to fight lawsuits and other legal actions meant to intimidate and financially burden reporters. In order to keep the program sustainable, member organizations participating in Reporters Shield will pay reasonable annual fees that are based on a variation of factors, including location of the outlet and how many stories they produce a year.
To be considered for membership in Reporters Shield, an organization must be legally registered and focus primarily in news, public interest, and/or investigative reporting; publish reporting in print and/or online; have non-profit status or transparent ownership; be independent from political, commercial, or other undue influence or interference; and have editorial independence and adhere to professional editorial standards. Reporters Shield is accepting applications worldwide and will be reviewing them in a phased approach, with some regions receiving benefits in the coming months, and others added later this year and in 2024.
Interested organizations can find more information and apply for membership by visiting reporters-shield.org.
The development of Reporters Shield has been supported by the generous pro bono legal support of the law firms of Proskauer, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
For more information on USAID’s support for Reporters Shield, please visit www.usaid.gov/democracy/reporters-shield.