Reporters Shield is a membership program that defends investigative reporting around the world from legal threats meant to silence critical voices. The program is for print/online media outlets and NGOs that report in the public interest.
Reporters Shield was developed by investigative journalists at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and lawyers from the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, with assistance and support from insurance specialists. Pro bono legal support was provided by the law firms of Proskauer, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
Reporters Shield is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization. USAID is contributing up to $9 million in seed funding for the program to support non-U.S. media. Private donor contributions fund the program to support U.S. media.
Media around the world increasingly face the risk of expensive and sometimes existential lawsuits for reporting the truth. In the past few years, the number of SLAPPs — strategic lawsuits against public participation — has grown significantly. These suits are filed specifically to threaten, intimidate, and financially burden journalists. As a result, media outlets may be forced to self-censor, avoid stories about litigious individuals or companies, and remove stories from their websites upon receiving legal threats. This situation harms press freedom, democracy, and the free flow of information that the public has a right to receive.
Prevent • Respond • Defend
- Experience shows that journalists usually win SLAPPs if the suit is brought in a country where there is rule of law and they have good legal presentation. Reporters Shield works in partnership with its members to prevent lawsuits, respond to legal threats, and defend them against defamation lawsuits.
- Reporters Shield will help members to avoid lawsuits by providing training, resources, and pre-publication review in high-risk circumstances. The program will identify qualified lawyers to respond to legal threats and coordinate and cover legal representation up to a pre-agreed limit in the event of a lawsuit.
Peter Noorlander is Reporters Shield’s startup director. He is responsible for building relationships with key stakeholders, overseeing the strategic direction of Reporters Shield, and ensuring that it is on track to achieve its goals and objectives. Peter has extensive experience in international media law. He helped establish the Media Legal Defence Initiative in 2008 and led it until 2016, and he has also worked for private foundations that focus on press freedom.
Jodi Blakenship is Reporters Shield’s program coordinator and chief administrator. She is the main point of contact for members and oversees all aspects of membership including recruitment, intake, individual case management, and data security. She is also Reporters Shield’s liaison to partner organizations, where she is creating and maintaining joint infrastructure and directing communication and collaboration. Jodi has over 16 years of international experience in program administration, including facilitating projects supporting independent media and legal assistance in the South Caucasus.
We are accepting applications worldwide.
We will review applications in a phased approach starting with Phase I, which includes organizations based in most countries in South America, North America, Europe, and Central Asia.
Phase 2 includes organizations based in most countries in the Middle East/North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean and Phase 3 includes organizations based in most countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific.
We cannot defend cases in certain countries without independent legal systems. We do however, welcome applications from organizations operating in restrictive environments or reporting in exile. If you have questions about your country or organization’s specific situation, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
South America, North America, Europe, and Central Asia
Middle East/North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean
South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific