Media Defence Initiative Credit: Media Defence Initiative
The Knight Foundation has donated $100,000 (£60,500) to a London-based legal defence fund for journalists.

The Media Legal Defense Initiative, founded in 2008, is an international group that offers advice and legal resources and representation to the media.

It works in 25 different countries around the world, including some of those most affected by press freedom restrictions, such as Russia and the Philippines.

The Knight Foundation announced the grant yesterday during the international observance of World Press Freedom Day in Washington D.C.

Foundation journalism associate Jose Zamora said that despite the potential of the internet, press freedom has been on the wane since the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks.

"The world wide web offers the promise of greater freedom. But in practice press freedom in the world has been shrinking since September 11, 2001. Independent journalists and those who work for small organizations are particularly vulnerable.

"What might be needed is the right legal defender at the right time to protect the free flow of information."

The Media Legal Defense Initiative's legal director Peter Noorlander echoed that the "internet has changed everything" but "hasn't changed the crude tools that tyrants, repressive governments and the well-connected use to silence the voices of freedom".

"The same old threats of censorship, criminal libel and predatory litigation are alive and well in cyberspace together with the new and unique challenges of new media.

"We believe that everyone – whether a traditional print or broadcast journalist, a blogger or even an everyday citizen posting on a public forum – is entitled their right of free speech free of free of unreasonable legal action."

The initiative also receives funding from two other US non-profit organisations, the MacArthur Foundation and Open Society Institute, and the London-based Sigrid Rausing Trust, and publishes the Media Defense Quarterly. In November last year, it published a new guide to libel laws for bloggers in the UK.

Earlier this year the Knight Foundation donated $200,000 (£123,000) to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to help it expand its reach to online journalists.

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