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Media Legal Defense Initiative to Hold First Meeting in New York

The London-based Media Legal Defense Initiative will hold
its first meeting in New York
Tuesday (Jan. 26) as part of its launch in this country.

The international group is composed of journalists and media
lawyers looking to present a united front to fight legal threats to press
freedom worldwide.

The group will focus on what it calls "unjustified
court action," paying for defense lawyers and providing other support.

"Lamentably, law itself is being misused as a tool to
silence the press by those who seek to avoid its scrutiny," said veteran free
press attorney and advocate Floyd Abrams in a release. Abrams is a financial
backer of the group. "The need to confront this legal oppression is great
and global. The MLDI has a crucial role to play in assisting the defense of
press freedom in the courts," he said.

The MacArthur Foundation has also provided funding.

Journalists in this country continue to push for a federal
shield from what they see as overzealous use of the courts by federal
prosecutors seeking information from journalists and their sources.

A shield bill got held up in Congress last year and is still
awaiting Senate action--a version passed in the House.