The National Freedom of Information Coalition has received a $2 million, three-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to create the Knight FOIA Fund, which will fund the legal costs often associate with public records disputes.
The coalition, an alliance of nonprofit freedom of information advocates, journalism associations and attorneys, said it recognized the need for the project after a surveying its members. About 80 percent said that the number of public records lawsuits had dropped in their state. Even more said they predicted freedom-of-information litigation would drop dramatically over the next three years.
"Soon, stern letters from journalists and their lawyers will be mere cries of wolf," the coalition’s announcement read. "Without another source to fund access fights — to finance the private attorneys’ general function formerly served by the fourth estate — we will see that sunshine laws will themselves be paper tigers."
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press worked closely with the coalition and the Knight Foundation in developing the project.