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New Freedom of the Press Group Aims to Protect Independent Outlets from the Government | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

New Freedom of the Press Group Aims to Protect Independent Outlets from the Government

A new group, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which seemed to come out of nowhere, has hit the ground running—within a day of its launching, just yesterday. It's already named the first four organizations to gain fundings (WikiLeaks and three others), drawn wide coverage (from The New York Times to Forbes) and proved very active on Twitter (@FreedomOfPress).

Its stated purpose is to help groups survive government tactics to isolate or suppress them or limit their funds. The board includes Glenn Greenwald, Xeni Jardin, Daniel Ellsberg, actor John Cusack, John Philip Barlow, Laura Poitras. Greenwald explains that they seek to “ensure that truly independent journalistic outlets—devoted to holding the US government and other powerful factions accountable with transparency and real adversarial journalism—are supported to the fullest extent possible.”

See articles this week from GreenwaldThe New York Times’s David Carr, The Guardian’s Dan Gillmor, Forbes’s Andy Greenberg, Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone, FDL’s Kevin Gosztola.

Here's how they describe the first three groups they are backing (besides WikiLeaks):

Muckrock News, a truly innovative group devoted to enabling any citizen easily and quickly to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or public records requests with the government, and then "guides the requests through the system so the government does not disregard" them. They also act as a news organization by analyzing and publicizing any newsworthy information they and their users uncover. Currently, "they are conducting a Drone Census of the United States, filing public records requests around the country that ask police agencies if they plan on buying domestic drones for surveillance purposes."

The UpTake, a Minnesota-based group that uses truly innovative means to break "down walls of power to expose the raw truth by pushing for transparency and access to information." They use citizen journalism, crowd-sourcing and cutting-edge technology to film and document the bad acts of government agents. I worked next to them when I covered the incredibly excessive federal and local police actions and brutality against protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and was truly impressed with them then, as I watched all sorts of young activists and older ones use hand-held video cameras and phones to comprehensively cover all sorts of police abuses being ignored by most large journalistic outlets, which were comfortably ensconced inside the convention hall. They've expanded their operations substantially since then, have a long list of achievements to tout, and—most excitingly to me—can serve as a template for how to engage in real journalism across the country using citizens and the power of technology.

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The National Security Archive, a group founded "by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy" and which "combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents." It also "serves as an advocacy organization to defend and expand citizen access to government information", as exemplified by its having "filed over 40,000 targeted Freedom of Information and declassification requests to more than 200 offices and agencies of the United States." Anyone who writes about or works on transparency and civil liberties issues (including me) depends on it; due to its efforts, "more than 10 million pages of previously secret U.S. government documents have been made public."

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