State news orgs to receive legal support

Oklahoma has been selected by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to receive pro bono legal support to assist local news organizations in pursuing public records and access to public meetings and in defending against legal actions.

The Reporters Committee announced Tuesday that it had chosen Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee as the initial sites of its Local Legal Initiative, which is being funded primarily through a $10 million investment by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Reporters Committee, based in Washington, D.C., will hire an attorney in each state to work with participating news organizations to bolster their efforts to obtain public records, gain access to hearings and meetings, and defend against legal threats and lawsuits. Each lawyer will also offer pre-publication reviews of content, which is common in journalism for assessing legal exposure, as well as other services.

“The Local legal Initiative is revolutionary because it will help restore the rights of citizens who want access to records kept by their government, and provide the financial backing to challenge bureaucracy and violations of Oklahoma’s transparency laws and principles,” said Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association. 

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