July 21, 2014

First Look Media

First Look Media announced Monday that the company is establishing a fund dedicated to the legal defense of the press and its allies across the globe — starting with a case related to one of the company’s most prominent journalists.

The program, which was announced on First Look Media’s website, will contribute funds to the legal defense of journalists “and others engaged in contests where freedom of the press is at stake,” according to the announcement.

The company’s first grant will fund an appeal filed by David Miranda against the British government, according to the announcement. Miranda filed suit against the government after being detained at London’s Heathrow Airport, claiming that his belongings were unlawfully confiscated and that the government’s actions were a violation of European law. The case was initially dismissed, but the government has allowed an appeal, according to the announcement.

Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a founding editor of First Look Media’s The Intercept, an online news organization that has devoted much of its coverage to examining how various governments worldwide are using data surveillance. Miranda was transporting files and storage devices for Greenwald at the time of his detention, according to the announcement.

Miranda’s appeal “raises significant questions of public importance concerning whether and how the UK’s anti-terrorism laws should be applied to journalists and their work product,” according to the announcement.

“A decision in Mr. Miranda’s favor will have wide-ranging implications for the practice of journalism worldwide, affirming the rights of journalists to travel and to protect their source information.  Conversely, if the judgment of the High Court is upheld on appeal, it is likely to have a very significant chilling effect on news organizations and will affect whether journalists and their agents travel through the UK. Moreover, in the UK, the losing party pays the winner’s legal fees, even in cases against the government,  making it extremely difficult for a person or company of normal resources to challenge the legitimacy of government practices.  FLM will be providing financial support to Mr. Miranda’s attorneys to cover their fees on the appeal.”

First Look Media has made contributions to press freedom causes before. In May, the company announced that it would give $550,000 to “organizations at the forefront of integrating freedom of the press with technology,” including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Reporter’s Committee For Freedom of the Press and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Journalists seeking legal defense funding from First Look Media can apply at litigationsupportprogram@firstlook.org.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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