The Reporters Committee is about to start suing people to help journalists

From The Columbia Journalism Review Fair warning, all ye who interfere with newsgathering: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is getting ready to sue you.

The organization has hired its first litigation director, Katie Townsend, to bring lawsuits around the country in cases that affect access to information for the press and public.

Although the RCFP has provided legal assistance to journalists for nearly 45 years—developing media law guides, filing amicus briefs, issuing statements, answering questions, making referrals to outside counsel—not since the 1980s has the RCFP itself been active as a litigant. It is re-entering that arena now to help fill a void created as news outlets, strapped for resources, have retreated from some legal battles.

“It’s in our blood,” said Bruce Brown, the group’s executive director. “This type of work is part of our history and mission, and now we’re doing all we can to enhance it—to use our expertise to ensure that journalists can gather and report the news without interference.”

The new position was created by rededicating funds that once supported a freedom of information director, who left the RCFP in 2013. To make the most of its resources, the organization will use several models to manage its litigation: handling cases in-house from start to finish; coordinating cases and dividing the labor with partners, such as law firms, law school clinics, or groups like the ACLU; and referring cases to outside counsel, the group’s favored approach for the past 25 years.

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