Assange decision: A wake-up call for US

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Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson speaks outside the U.K. High Court in 2022. "Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson talks about Assange's extradition hearing" by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Assange decision: A wake-up call for US

On Monday, the High Court in London granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave to appeal his extradition to the United States.

The court’s decision is a welcome one. But as Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) wrote in The Guardian, it's "painfully ironic" that a U.K. court is defending the First Amendment against U.S. overreach.

The ruling should be a “wake-up call” for President Joe Biden, wrote FPF: “It’s not possible to prosecute Assange while claiming to be a friend of press freedom. Rather than wait for UK courts to defend the rights that America supposedly stands for, the US should drop the case now.”

Read the full Guardian op-ed, as well as our statement on the U.K. ruling, and tell the Biden administration to drop the case against Assange.

Police continue abuse of press covering protests

From coast to coast, law enforcement officers are illegally detaining and arresting reporters who are simply doing their jobs covering recent pro-Palestinian protests.

The New York City Police Department continues to arrest and detain journalists despite a settlement agreement intended to overhaul the NYPD’s response to demonstrations, including its treatment of the press. Read more on our website about the NYPD’s disregard for its commitments, as well as the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, police unnecessarily arrested Alissa Azar, a journalist covering a protest at Portland State University, earlier this month. Read more on our website about why the charges against Azar must be dropped right away. Also, check out our Q&A with Susan Seager, an adjunct professor of law at University of California, Irvine School of Law, about similarly alarming press freedom violations in California.

News is criminal contraband, federal prosecutors say

Federal prosecutors in Florida have concocted a novel workaround to restrain journalists from publishing news: declaring the news itself criminal “contraband.”

That’s the latest constitutionally dubious argument the Department of Justice is making in the prosecution of Tim Burke, the journalist who found unaired footage from Tucker Carlson’s Fox News interview with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, where Ye went on a bizarre and antisemitic rant.

FPF’s Advocacy Director Seth Stern wrote for Slate about the dangers of the government’s theory. Read the full op-ed.

Israel censors the AP: U.S. should take note

On Tuesday, Israel seized broadcasting equipment from The Associated Press, cutting off its live footage of Gaza. After an outpouring of criticism, including from FPF, the Israeli government backed down and returned the AP’s gear the same day.

The seizure and a recent ban on Al Jazeera in Israel were both based on a new Israeli censorship law that allows its government to bar foreign media organizations. FPF and others have criticized the law as an attempt to silence coverage of the Israel-Gaza war.

It’s good that Israel returned the AP’s equipment, but it never should have been seized in the first place. Israel must also reverse the Al Jazeera ban. And the U.S. should stop passing its own censorial laws, like the TikTok ban, before it slides down a similar slippery slope. You can read the statement we issued after the Israeli raid here.

What we’re reading

Gov. Murphy should veto public records bill, say mayors of N.J.’s two biggest cities (New Jersey Monitor). New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy still hasn’t said whether he’ll sign a disastrous bill to gut the state’s Open Public Records Act, but the mayors of Newark and Jersey City have made clear that the bill is a raw deal for the public. Murphy must veto it.

How much does it cost DeSantis to travel from one place to another? Florida won't tell you (Tallahassee Democrat). Florida is refusing to release a breakdown of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ travel expenses. It’s the latest example of laws purportedly intended to shield officials from harm being abused to shield them from accountability instead.

Journalists pepper-sprayed, threatened and harassed at campus protests (U.S. Press Freedom Tracker). Journalists documenting demonstrations against the Israel-Gaza war have been exposed to chemical irritants, harassed by protesters and counterprotesters, and subject to access restrictions. The Tracker has a roundup of such incidents.

Covering 2024 elections

As election season approaches, stay up to date on how candidates running for federal office are treating the press by following the Tracker’s campaign tracking blog. FPF’s Digital Security Training team is also here to help reporters who are covering candidates and campaign events. In addition, you can join the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Women's Media Foundation and PEN America for a free webinar series that will help journalists prepare for the election.

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Read more about Advocacy News

States keep public in dark

A full-fledged assault on transparency is underway in the states. Recent changes to public records laws in New Jersey, Louisiana, and Utah are making it harder for journalists and the public to find out what government officials are up to.

Federal anti-SLAPP law needed ASAP

Recent baseless lawsuits against liberal and conservative outlets show the need for a federal law counteracting strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs.

Sen. Durbin, advance the PRESS Act

Sen. Dick Durbin has a rare chance to strengthen freedom of the press right now by advancing the bipartisan PRESS Act, a bill to protect journalist-source confidentiality at the federal level. But he needs to act quickly. This week, Freedom of the Press Foundation led a coalition of 123 civil liberties and journalism organizations and individual law professors and media lawyers in a letter to Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and ranking member Sen. Lindsey Graham, urging them to schedule a markup of the PRESS Act right away.