The initiative is a membership programme that seeks to defend investigative reporting organisations and news media around the world from legal threats meant to silence critical voices. It aims to reduce the risk of lawsuits through training, while at the same time funding legal assistance to fight lawsuits meant to intimidate and financially burden reporters and the organisations they work for.
Developed by investigative journalists at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and lawyers from the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, with assistance and support from insurance specialists, Reporters Shield is currently available across the Americas, Europe, and Central Asia. Further phases will expand the network and available range of support into Africa, Asia, and Oceania over the coming year.
The programme is for print and online media outlets as well as NGOs that report in the public interest. It will identify qualified lawyers to respond to legal threats and lawsuits and pay for legal representation up to a pre-agreed limit. The programme will also help members to avoid lawsuits by providing training, resources, and pre-publication review in high-risk circumstances.
To participate, relevant organisations must meet eligibility criteria and contribute an annual fee, tiered based on a range of factors including the location of the outlet and the number of investigative stories published.
A large proportion of the initial investment to launch Reporters Shield has come from USAID, which is contributing up to $9 million in seed funding for the programme to support non-U.S. media. Private donor contributions fund the support to US-based media. It is hoped that as the network membership grows the initiative will become a long-term solution in response to the increasing weaponisation of legal systems used to target media globally.
Visit Reporters Shield for more information.