Tapping Technology to Support Press Freedom

I’m delighted to share the news that First Look Media is awarding grants totaling $550,000 to three outstanding non-profit organizations to support aggressive, independent journalism aided by advanced technology.

The grants are being awarded to three leading non-profits: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Freedom of the Press Foundation. First Look believes strongly in the power of the press—both traditional and digital—as an essential linchpin of democracy, and the work of these groups reflects our core mission of strengthening press freedoms while developing the tools and technology that journalists need to do their jobs. These grants, and others that we announce in the future, are but one arrow in our quiver.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is one of the country’s premier non-profits devoted to defending the legal rights of journalists. RCFP has taken the lead in organizing amicus briefs in First Amendment cases, and in supporting the efforts of journalists who file requests under the Freedom of Information Act. RCFP also participates in the Department of Justice’s dialogue group on press issues created last spring after revelations that the DOJ had sought to obtain information about journalists’ sources from phone companies and email providers. The $100,000 grant from First Look will support a technology fellow to assist RCFP in developing a strategic approach to addressing technology issues related to press freedom.

We are also providing the Electronic Frontier Foundation with $100,000 to support EFF’s work in promoting encryption – a class of technologies essential for protecting press freedom. EFF is currently updating and localizing educational materials about communication technologies, computer security principles and privacy. The group is also developing an “Encryption Usability Prize” to help promote the creation of encryption software that can pass a rigorous set of usability criteria.

First Look is also providing an initial grant of $150,000 to the Freedom of the Press Foundation during its first year with full-time staff, and up to $200,000 in additional funding over two years to develop its management team and funding base. A new organization originally formed to crowdsource support for journalism, FPF has quickly taken on a leadership role in defending public-interest journalism, particularly national security reporting. The group raised money for court reporters at Chelsea Manning’s trial and is working to equip newsrooms with SecureDrop, an open-source whistleblower submission system originally developed by the late Aaron Swartz.

Although First Look is still in the process of developing our overall approach to grantmaking, each of these first three grantees addresses aspects of our core mission that we felt needed immediate support. We applaud their outstanding work on behalf of press freedom, and we are honored to help support and strengthen their ongoing efforts on behalf of all journalists.

While we fully expect that we will award more grants in the future, First Look is not accepting any unsolicited grant proposals at this time. We are still in the process of establishing our funding guidelines, and we will post more information about our grantmaking philosophy and program once it is finalized.

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