The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) started life as part of a programme of work within the Open Society Foundations. They had observed a number of their programmes were facing an ever-growing demand for legal defence of media which neither they – nor others – could respond to.
Having identified this crucial gap, the Open Society Initiative Media Programme and the Open Society Justice Initiative decided to create a new entity. The aim was to create an initiative with the capacity to respond to the constant barrage of lawsuits many independent journalists and media outlets were facing, as well as defending the more headline-grabbing media freedom cases.
We formed an international board comprising media lawyers such as Eduardo Bertoni, former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, Stuart Karle, former General Counsel at the Wall Street Journal and Beatrice Mtetwa, a Zimbabwean media lawyer, as well as media representatives such as Bambang Harymurti, editor of Indonesia’s Tempo Magazine.
In our first year MLDI supported a small number of cases in Sub-Saharan African and Asia.