‘A national embarrassment’

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Promoting press freedom in the 21st century

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Here are some of the most important stories we’re following from the U.S. and around the world. If you enjoy reading this newsletter, please forward it to friends and family. If someone has forwarded you this newsletter, please subscribe here.

Photojournalist Joseph Rushmore was violently arrested while covering a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas at Austin. His case is one of many press freedom violations documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker related to campus protests in recent days. (Courtesy of Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune)

Press freedom under attack on campuses

The flood of press freedom violations against journalists covering protests opposing the Israel-Gaza war is a national embarrassment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented dozens of abuses connected to protests and counterprotests, and the numbers will likely grow. These recent incidents confirm what past data in the Tracker has demonstrated: protests are an especially dangerous place for journalists.

Arrests and detentions of journalists, physical attacks on reporters by police and protesters, and police blocking journalists’ access to protests have emerged as troubling trends in the latest campus protests. Read more on our website.

Public must have access to U.S. report on military aid

Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) and a coalition of press freedom, civil liberties, and human rights groups sent a letter to President Biden this week, calling on his administration to make public a new report to Congress on U.S. military assistance to foreign countries.

The report was originally due on May 8, 2024, but has since been delayed. Among other things, the report is expected to address whether Israel has violated U.S. and international humanitarian law during the Israel-Gaza war.

Read more on our website about why the Biden administration must release the report to the public and the press — whenever it’s finally completed.

Congress, Biden must stop advancing censorship bills

Hysteria over pro-Palestine protests is prompting a flurry of ill-advised “national security” legislation that leaves press freedom and other civil liberties vulnerable to attack.

FPF Director of Advocacy Seth Stern wrote for The Guardian about why those disturbed by Israel’s ban of Al Jazeera should also oppose the U.S. legislation to ban TikTok, among other recent censorial bills.

Stern also wrote for The Intercept about an alarming bill that would allow the Secretary of the Treasury to unilaterally revoke the tax exempt status of nonprofit organizations, including nonprofit news outlets: “Those who claim a second Donald Trump term would mark the end of democracy need to stop passing overbroad and unnecessary new laws handing him, and future authoritarians, brand new ways to harass and silence journalists who don’t toe the line.”

What we’re reading

World Press Freedom Day highlights journalist rights (WBEZ audio). Stern joined WBEZ’s Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons to discuss the current state of the free press in the United States. They discussed officials’ declining understanding of journalists’ rights, as well as legislation affecting press freedom, from the PRESS Act to surveillance laws such as RISAA.

Warner: Lawmakers 'in process' of finding Section 702 fix (The Record). Sen. Mark Warner says he’s “absolutely committed” to fixing legislation he helped ram through the Senate that lets the government force citizens to spy on newsrooms. Good, but we’ll believe it when we see it. Everyone who cares about press freedom and privacy must keep the pressure on.

Gov. Murphy’s choice on public records bill: Mimic Michigan Dems, or the Louisiana GOP (New Jersey Monitor). New Jersey lawmakers could pass a bill that would water down the Open Public Records Act, making it harder for journalists to hold the government to account, as early as Monday. If they do, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy should veto it.

USDA silences scientists after USRTK interview requests (U.S. Right to Know). “The American people rely on journalists to translate very complicated pieces of science for them, including science being done by our government,” we told U.S. Right to Know. Gagging government scientists makes the public less informed.

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