Frequently Asked Questions
The Media Legal Defence Initiative provides assistance in all types of cases in which journalists or media outlets are threatened with legal sanctions because of their work or where they wish to take legal action to assert their rights.
We do not give support in cases which fall outside the scope of internationally recognised rights to freedom of expression. For example, we would not assist to defend hate speech or an incitement to violence.
The Trustees of the Media Legal Defence Initiative have set out a grants policy to guide our work and before we provide assistance, we take utmost care to confirm that our efforts will support a beneficiary or a class of beneficiaries whose rights are at risk.
We will consider providing support to an individual case where there is an immediate need to help a journalist or media outlet. For example, where a journalist or media outlet cannot afford a lawyer or needs international expertise to fight a case, we will consider providing support.
When a journalist is threatened with imprisonment, other criminal penalties or financial ruin or a media outlet faces closure as a consequence of legal proceedings, or when a journalist has suffered violence because of their work, these are grounds for looking into ways to help.
Our support is normally provided in the form of financial aid, as well as help to access free legal advice. We try to give priority for financial assistance to cases and areas of greatest need. In practice, this means that we usually do not give financial aid to litigants in high income, developed countries.
In addition to paying legal fees, we may also support other organizations to send observers to a trial.
We provide support to hundreds of cases. We give direct assistance to individual journalists and media organizations and also support local and national organizations that take on cases on behalf of others.
We give support to efforts aimed at strengthening the capacity of lawyers and other people working to defend media rights. We do this by funding projects, partnering with other organisations on specific projects and mobilizing expertise in order to equip lawyers and other practitioners with the skills and knowledge necessary for the effective defence of media rights.
In our decisions about which projects to support, we give priority to work which:
- Focuses on supporting and reinforcing the work of lawyers who work in defence of media freedom
- Expands access to legal advice to the media in the under-served locations of the world
- Aims to improve the outcomes of litigation in media freedom cases by supporting the exchange of successful litigation strategies in the field
- Promotes the use of new and innovative ways of expanding access to knowledge of best practice in the field of media defence
The Media Legal Defence Initiative and organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Article 19 have differing but related roles. The Media Legal Defence Initiative focuses on the legal defence of journalists and media outlets and derives its strength from knowing this field well.
We have strong informal links with many other media freedom and human rights organizations the world over and as the only organisation devoted specifically to the legal defence of journalists and media outlets around the world, we often get requests from the other media freedom organizations for assistance.
We see the roles of the different media freedom organizations as complementary and we sometimes work together on cases and projects. One example of how we work together with others is by submitting interventions jointly in legal cases before international courts.
The Media Legal Defence Initiative's office is in London. We work in every region of the world.
We have supported cases and projects in Azerbaijan, Burundi, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Thailand. We work with local lawyers and organizations and a wide network of national and international contacts.
We are an independent charitable organization. Our work is funded through contributions from individual donors and foundations. With money from donors who support our aims we are able to make a significant contribution to the defence of media freedom the world over. When you support the Media Legal Defence Initiative, you are helping to defend media freedom.
Contribute to the Media Legal Defence Initiative
The Media Legal Defence Initiative is registered as a charity in the United Kingdom. This means that, by law, we are required to submit annual reports including our accounts to a body called the Charity Commission.
On a day-to-day basis, our Executive Director has responsibility for our work and she reports to the trustees who meet every two months to discuss the Media Legal Defence Initiative's work and overall direction, as well as to decide on major grants. The Media Legal Defence Initiative is also advised by an International Advisory Board which meets at least once a year.
Please email us at email@example.com or write or call us using the contact details provided at the bottom of this page as soon as possible.
If there is anything we have not made clear or a question you cannot find the answer for, contact us with your questions and we will try to answer you as quickly as we can.