The Media Consortium is pleased to announce that we have partnered with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to help our members find pro-bono or low-cost legal defense and to provide our members with a limited number of opportunities for pre-publication legal review.
The help is needed, as U.S.-based journalists have gotten a small, bitter taste of the threat to press freedom experienced by their colleagues elsewhere.
That is not to say the dangers U.S. journalists face are comparable to those elsewhere: in Mexico, to take one example, 11 reporters were killed in 2016, not including Javier Valdez, shot dead just weeks ago. What has changed for U.S.-based journalists--and the outlets they serve--is that we face increasing attacks on press freedom from the institutions of government. This past year, we have witnessed:
- Journalists indicted for reporting, including Aaron Cantu indicted for reporting on protests at the Trump inauguration and Dan Heyman, indicted for asking questions of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in a public space. We have seen reporters arrested before (especially during the Occupy protests), but rarely has the government continued to press charges.
- Journalists attacked. We are concerned by the president’s statements against the media as well as the increasing physical attacks against journalists, particularly the ones by Trump’s campaign staff in 2016 and more recently by Montana rep Greg Gianforte.
- News outlets sued in order to shut them down. Defamation suits can be a legitimate means of combatting bad reporting, but recently they have been used expressly to shut down outlets, successfully in the case of Gawker.
- Unwarranted border searches of journalists. U.S. border authorities are increasingly demanding journalists turn over their devices to be searched. Is it legal? Maybe.
- Unwarranted surveillance of journalists. As local police buy and install mass surveillance devices, journalists should assume they will be recognized and tracked and that cellular data will be read unless encrypted. Find out more at eff.org
Fortunately, journalists have strong allies supporting press freedom. These include advocacy groups like the ACLU, Free Press, Center for Media Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as a number of organizations that provide direct support for journalists. The Media Consortium has strong relationships with these organizations.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (legal aid-U.S.)
- Legal Defense Hotline. When an emergency comes up—if a reporter is arrested, for example—call RCFP’s legal defense hotline. Media Consortium members get priority review.
- Pre-publication Review. Thanks to our partnership with RCFP, the Media Consortium is excited to be able to provide pre-publication legal review for up to 10 news pieces per year. If you would like to submit a piece for pre-publication review, send it to TMC staff. We will vett pieces and send them on to RCFP. Please keep in mind that this tremendous opportunity is for not designed for time-sensitive pieces.
- Legal Defense Training. TMC will offer a workshop by FCFP in legal defense at our 2018 conference. Check our calendar for other trainings offered by RFCP through the year.
- Amici Briefs. The Media Consortium has been pleased to support a number of legal briefs filed each year by RCFP in support of press freedom in the United States. For a list of briefs we have filed, see Legal Resouces.
- Committee to Protect Journalists (legal aid—outside the U.S.)
- Emergency Response Team. This service supports journalists around the world who are detained and in immediate danger.
- Security Guide. A must-read for any journalist going to a location where journalists are detained by governments or kidnapped/killed by non-governmental forces, as well as other dangerous situations.
- Freedom of the Press Foundation (surveillance)
- Anti-surveillance Tools. Currently, offering support for Signal, the secure messaging app, and Secure Drop, the best way to protect whistleblowers.
- Anti-Surveillance Training. TMC has hosted anti-surveillance training at our conferences since 2012, most recently by Harlo Holmes at FoPF. We will offer it again in 2018.
The Media Consortium is constantly looking for ways to protect the rights of journalists. Keep an eye on our Legal Resources page for updates.