Legal affairs at ONA: 2019 Year in Review

Updates from the Online News Association's Legal Affairs Committee

By on February 2, 2020

The Online News Association (ONA) collaborated with press organizations and publishers throughout 2019 to help support digital journalists telling stories of public importance. Here is a snapshot of some of our efforts:

Access to information

ONA has joined efforts challenging federal and state agency attempts to narrow access to public records through FOIA and state freedom of information laws; challenging courts who close the courtroom to press during hearings on matters of public importance; seeking access to court records in a timely and cost-effective manner; challenging the federal government’s use of gag orders on the recipients of National Security Letters and warrants; and challenging the use of non-disparagement clauses in police brutality settlements in Baltimore, which prohibited victims who settled from speaking to the media.

Protections for digital journalists

ONA joined an amicus brief in a case that won an important decision from the Nevada Supreme Court expanding that state’s shield law to cover online publishers and journalists, even if they were not members of the Nevada Press Association. ONA also joined a coalition of press organizations helping to protect key elements of Texas’s anti-SLAPP law from challenge by
industry groups, and challenged state efforts to criminalize newsgathering efforts through “ag-gag” laws.

International efforts

ONA participated in a media amicus effort supporting Google in its long-running challenge to European efforts to enforce the “right to be forgotten” globally. The EU Court of Justice held in Google’s favor, finding that search engines are not required to “de-index” content worldwide, and enforcement is limited to EU member states.

ONA also joined a group of media entities to intervene in a case in Northern Ireland. Two documentary filmmakers were arrested and had materials seized from their homes and offices based on their reporting about an unpublished draft of a government report in their investigation of a high-profile murder case. Following significant international attention, the court quashed the warrants.

Read more

Explore the 2019 Retrospective to learn more about how ONA supports digital journalism and the impact of our work the past year.


Alison Schary

Alison Schary is ONA's general counsel. In her role at Davis Wright Tremaine, she represents and counsels clients on a wide range of issues in media and intellectual property law, including libel, privacy, copyright, newsgathering and First Amendment matters. Alison regularly defends clients against claims for defamation, privacy and newsgathering torts, and she has experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants in intellectual property matters. Alison also advises newspaper, magazine, website, television and book-publishing clients on pre-publication and pre-broadcast legal issues.