Vance Center and Partners Launch “Reporters Shield”

New Program Helps Defend Media Outlets Against Vexatious Lawsuits


The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, along with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, has launched Reporters Shield, a membership program to defend investigative journalism against the growing threat of vexatious lawsuits intended to harass and silence independent media worldwide. 

“Strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPs, are increasingly being deployed to threaten, intimidate and financially burden journalists. Fighting them entails large legal bills, years of emotional stress and enormous amounts of time, distracting journalists from their work. As a result, media outlets are often forced to avoid reporting about litigious subjects, and may preemptively take down or spike stories when receiving legal threats. 

Reporters Shield will help its members limit litigation risk, respond to legal threats and defend against SLAPPs.

Reporters Shield was launched at a press conference on World Press Freedom Day – May 3, 2023 – at the New York City Bar Association, where the Vance Center is based. From left: Alexander Papachristou, Executive Director, Vance Center; Pavla Holcová, Regional Editor for Central Europe, OCCRP; Peter Noorlander, Startup Director, Reporters Shield

“Journalists around the world are facing increased legal harassment, and now they don’t have to go it alone,” said Reporters Shield’s startup director, Peter Noorlander. “Reporters Shield is a coordinated global solution that will counter SLAPP threats and work to support press freedom, democracy, and the free flow of information that the public needs to make decisions.” 

Noorlander added that Reporters Shield will also offer pre-publication review to members to help avoid litigation in the first place. 

To join, media organizations must meet certain criteria and pay an annual fee – which will differ based on the size of the outlet – to ensure that the program is sustainable. Reporters Shield is accepting applications worldwide and will be reviewing them in phases. Phase I includes most countries in South America, North America, Europe, and Central Asia. Membership for other regions will become available later this year and in 2024. 

USAID is contributing up to $9 million in seed funding for Reporters Shield to support non-U.S. media. Private donor contributions will fund support for U.S. media. 

Membership will not be limited to traditional media companies, and will include nonprofits and other organizations that do investigative reporting. 

The Reporters Shield website has information about  how to become a member. 

A U.S.-based nonprofit organization, Reporters Shield has received assistance and support from insurance specialists, and the law firms of Proskauer, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP have provided pro bono legal support to develop the initiative. 

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