What is the Fact-checkers Legal Support Initiative?
The Fact-checkers Legal Support Initiative (FLSI) is a collaboration between three leading media law and journalism organizations, brought together to support fact-checkers around the world.
FLSI provides legal defense for fact-checkers, connecting them with pro bono lawyers, helping to pay legal fees where pro bono support isn’t available, and providing technical legal assistance to pro bono lawyers. FLSI will also publish a guide for fact-checkers covering the main legal and non-legal risks fact-checkers face and how to mitigate them.
Who is behind the Fact-checkers Legal Support Initiative?
FLSI is a collaboration between three organizations. The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) , and the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). Find out more about our partner organizations.
How does FLSI support fact-checkers?
Fact-checkers might need legal defense in relation to legal action in response to debunking an article, or they may require assistance filing a criminal complaint about death threats received in response to their fact-checking work. FLSI provides legal support for fact-checkers in four main ways:
Connecting fact-checkers with pro bono lawyers
In countries where pro bono lawyers are available, or where the fact-checker is part of an organisation that has the resources for its own legal defence, FLSI will assist the fact-checker to identify a suitable lawyer.
Fact-checkers are free to choose their own lawyers. FLSI does not impose lawyers on fact-checkers – they are encouraged to identify their own lawyers. However, if the fact-checker is unable to find a suitable lawyer, FLSI can recommend a specialist from its own network. Providing legal defense in cases related to the media is at the core of MLDI’s work globally, and is a strong component of RCFP’s work in the US. Both organizations have developed a network of lawyers on whose services they can depend.
Legal guides for fact-checkers
FLSI will create and publish guides covering the main legal and non-legal threats that fact-checkers face and detailing how they can be mitigated. The first guides that FLSI will produce will cover Brazil, Italy, the Philippines and the U.S. – reflecting the increased legal threats faced by fact-checkers in these countries. More countries may be added in the future.
There will be other material, related to non-legal risks, which is not country specific and can be used by fact-checkers everywhere. The RCFP will lead development of the guide for fact-checkers in the U.S. and coordinate with other media lawyers who will author the remaining chapters.
Helping to pay legal fees
Where no pro bono legal support is available: FLSI has a fund to pay for fact-checkers’ legal fees. FLSI does not pay fines or damage awards, and does not take any portion of any compensation received by fact-checkers. FLSI will pay some or all of the legal fees of a lawyer only when FLSI is the only realistic avenue to provide the support required.
The amount paid to lawyers is determined by the complexity of the case, court fees and the cost of litigating in that country. The FLSI fund, managed by MLDI, does not pay a daily, hourly or monthly rate. Instead it bases its grant to the relevant lawyer on a budget prepared by the lawyer on the assumption that they will see the case through to the end of the relevant instance. Where necessary FLSI may make further grants to cover appeals.
Legal support to lawyers
As needed, FLSI may provide specialised technical legal support to lawyers representing fact-checkers.
If you need legal support because of your fact-checking work, apply using MLDI’s secure portal.
Who counts as a fact-checker?
Fact-checkers that are part of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) have also committed to abide by a code of principles (the Code), which includes commitments to political neutrality, transparency on sourcing and funding and robust correction policies. To maintain verification, each signatory’s compliance with the code is assessed annually.
How many fact-checkers are there?
Why do fact-checkers need special help?
How do you know the information fact-checkers put out is correct?
What if fact-checkers are partisan or they make a mistake?
Honest mistakes may happen. However, where IFCN-verified fact-checkers make a mistake, they will correct clearly and transparently in line with their corrections policy, seeking so far as possible, to ensure that readers see the corrected version.