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Google News Initiative Makes $500,000 Contribution To First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund

As Maria Ressa becomes the first working journalist ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous reporting on corruption while under constant harassment by the Philippine government of President Rodrigo Duterte, The Google News Initiative is making a contribution of $500,000 to First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund in support of the Fund’s work towards press freedom around the world.

PFDF provides essential support to media organizations, filmmakers, independent journalists, and their sources who face legal risk for revealing information of public significance about governmental and corporate misconduct. The Press Freedom Defense Fund often stands as a resource of last resort for those who face this retaliation.

Core to the Fund’s mission is to help ensure the free flow of information, as well as supporting cases that develop and define the fundamental right to receive and provide information of public concern.

“Every day, there is a journalist being unfairly imprisoned, persecuted, or prevented from exposing the truth which is a fundamental pillar of free press. But our systems need journalism more than ever,” said James Risen, Director of the Press Freedom Defense Fund. “We are grateful for the Google News Initiative’s generous support as we continue to pursue the vital cause of ensuring press freedom globally so that injustices can be revealed, and democracy can thrive.”

One of the defining cases First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund has been supporting is that of Maria Ressa and Rappler, the Philippine digital news site she co-founded and for which she serves as Executive Editor. Ressa and Rappler have been the target of several lawsuits and criminal charges filed against them because of critical news reports on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

In a recent interview with Risen, Ressa noted, “There’s a cost to speaking truth to power; there’s a cost to trying to do our jobs. The Press Freedom Defense Fund was critical in those first months, when all of the charges came.”

Google’s donation will go toward helping support journalists such as Ressa around the world who face harassment and legal charges.

"The open societies of our world depend on a strong and free press. The future of the web that so many of us rely on is dependent on open societies, platforms, and markets. It is inspiring to see the recognition of Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov in the work they do to safeguard the freedom of the press. Google is pleased to support the work of James Risen and the Press Freedom Defense Fund," said Richard Gingras, Vice President of News at Google.

Since its inception as the Press Freedom Defense Fund in 2017, the Fund has provided substantial resources towards the legal aid of well over 30 journalists and news organizations in the United States and around the world. The Fund has also partnered with organizations such as the Cyrus R. Vance Center to create Lawyers for Reporters, providing pro bono legal assistance to local journalists and media organizations in the United States; and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) to spearhead the provision of financial support and legal assistance for reporters who were arrested or injured while covering the news, especially during the protests that arose after the police killing of George Floyd.

In 2020, the Press Freedom Defense Fund also launched an emergency financial assistance program for independent journalists impacted by the economic fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Fund will soon announce key grants in support of independent journalism in Belarus and Afghanistan, countries where journalists are detained, arrested, and prevented from bringing vital information to the public.

About First Look Institute: First Look Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to fearless reporting, bold filmmaking, and defending those who speak truth to power. By empowering journalists to unearth injustices, unbeholden to outside influences, by investing in a generation of trailblazing filmmakers; and by protecting risk-taking reporters and whistleblower from retribution, First Look Institute vigilantly defends our First Amendment rights so democracy can flourish. First Look Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

About the Press Freedom Defense Fund:

The Press Freedom Defense Fund provides essential legal support for journalists, news organizations, and whistleblowers who are targeted by governments, corporations, or other powerful figures because they have tried to bring to light information that is in the public interest and necessary for a functioning democracy. The Fund also provides legal resources for operational needs of reporters and news organizations through a pro bono law firm and provides training and education programs to an array of journalists, lawyers, and nonprofit organizations.

The Press Freedom Defense Fund fearlessly and relentlessly dedicates itself to protecting freedom of the press. Free speech should be regarded as a right, investigative reporting a duty, and whistleblowing an act of bravery. The Press Freedom Defense Fund Advisory Committee includes Jameel Jaffer, Tom Rosenstiel, Sandy Rowe, Dave Schulz, and Nabiha Syed.

About The Google News Initiative:

The Google News Initiative works side-by-side with publishers and journalists to build a more sustainable, diverse, and innovative news ecosystem. Through programs, products, and partnerships, we strive to advance the practice of quality journalism and strengthen publisher business models in the digital age.

Since 2018, our $300 million funding commitment has supported more than 7000 news partners in 120 countries and territories around the world. We’ve provided training for over 450,000 journalists on skills including digital verification, data visualization, and machine learning through in-person trainings. And we have worked to bring together industry leaders around the world, cultivating a diverse news community to spur innovation and tackle pressing issues like media literacy and misinformation.