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New investments in Reporters Committee bolster pro bono legal support for journalists covering the pandemic, protests and 2020 election

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More than $1.2 million in combined grants will go toward expanding legal resources.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will be able to provide pro bono legal support and resources for a greater number of journalists and newsrooms, particularly those covering the coronavirus pandemic, nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, and the aftermath of the 2020 election, thanks to more than $1.2 million in combined grants from the Ford Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Abrams Foundation, The Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation and TEGNA Foundation.

“We are grateful for these generous investments in the Reporters Committee’s mission to serve as an indispensable resource for journalists in need of legal services, especially at a time when the news media is facing a growing and alarming number of legal obstacles,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “As the only nonprofit dedicated to providing this kind of legal support to journalists nationwide at no cost to them, these grants will help us double down on our efforts where they are most needed — defending the rights of journalists documenting protests, ensuring they can continue to inform communities amid the pandemic, and equipping them with information about their rights when reporting on the election.”

The Ford Foundation has committed a $500,000 grant to expand the Reporters Committee’s capacity to defend against incidents threatening press freedom and address the emergent needs of journalists, such as rapidly responding to attacks and arrests of reporters covering protests.

“The Ford Foundation is thrilled to support the Reporters Committee’s vital mission,” said Noorain Khan, director of the Office of the President at the Ford Foundation. “It is more critical than ever to protect the principles of free speech, and the newsrooms across the United States engaging in fact-based journalism that empowers Americans to engage in the civic affairs that are important to them.”

In addition, a $250,000 grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies will help the Reporters Committee provide more support — such as publishing new online resources, leading trainings and responding to legal threats — for journalists, with a particular focus on those covering elections and protests.

“A trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy, but it needs help from the people of our country to stay safe and trustworthy. The Reporters Committee helps make that a real thing,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has also made a $250,000, multi-year grant to the Reporters Committee to bolster legal support for the next generation of storytellers, including journalists and documentary filmmakers.

“The HFPA — an organization of journalists — recognizes and supports the critical role of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in protecting the rights of journalists and news outlets to gather and distribute the news guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Ali Sar, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The Abrams Foundation made a $100,000 grant to specifically support local journalism through the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative, which was launched earlier this year to provide local news organizations with the direct legal services they need to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities.

A $75,000 grant from the TEGNA Foundation will also enable Reporters Committee attorneys to offer increased legal training to local broadcast journalists, as well as to police departments, to protect the newsgathering rights and safety of local journalists.

“As the First Amendment rights of journalists are increasingly under attack, it is critical to safeguard our most basic democratic freedoms,” said Dave Lougee, president and CEO of TEGNA. “TEGNA Foundation is proud to support the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to protect local journalists.”

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.