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Wednesday, September 23, 2020
MFIA Clinic Receives Grant from Legal Clinics Fund
The Media Freedom and Information Access (MFIA) Clinic has received a $230,000 grant from the Legal Clinics Fund that will help fund a new MFIA fellow to lead the Clinic’s recently-launched initiative for local journalists.
Through the Local News Initiative, the Clinic will be providing nonprofit news organizations and journalists in New England with pro bono legal services to support their newsgathering and defend their publications. The initiative was launched to help investigative journalists in the region with legal issues surrounding source protection, trespass, intrusion, privacy and other newsgathering concerns. The Clinic also assists in obtaining access to government records, and advises on libel, privacy, intellectual property and other content concerns.
The new fellow will supervise student teams supporting the work of journalists and publishers working at the local, state and regional levels and will conduct outreach to journalists and news organizations in Connecticut and surrounding states. The fellow will also develop an infrastructure for sharing resources and expertise among clinicians and media lawyers in the region.
“We are deeply grateful for Legal Clinic Fund’s support for this important initiative, and their show of confidence in the MFIA Clinic,” says MFIA Director, David Schulz ’78.
MFIA has a history of successful service to newsrooms and journalists, and this grant will allow MFIA to increase pro bono services for journalists working at the state and local level and leverage their impact through alliances with local practitioners. The Local News Initiative fits closely together with MFIA’s core mission to defend the public’s right to know and freedom of the press. MFIA is dedicated to litigating these issues in the public interest and to ensuring that watchdog journalism can continue without legal intimidation or barriers to access.
The Legal Clinic Fund was started in 2019 to support the small but powerful network of First Amendment legal clinics at local universities as they work to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally. The Fund envisions these local legal clinics as a critical backbone of new legal support that can aid local journalists and media makers as they investigate injustice, hold power to account, and tell the stories we need to hear. This is especially important at a moment when the journalism industry is facing profound challenges and changes that are limiting its ability to fight these fights. With these grants the Legal Clinic Fund has now awarded $2.8 million to nine organizations, all of whom are part of the growing Free Expression Legal Network (FELN), of which the MFIA Clinic was a founding member clinic.