California police violate press rights

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UCLA campus police arrested independent journalist Sean Beckner-Carmitchel on May 6, 2024, while he documented campus protesters’ detentions. (Courtesy of Sean Beckner-Carmitchel)

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California police violate press freedom law

California police are violating state law “right and left” during the protests and police raids on campus encampments. 

That’s according to University of California, Irvine, School of Law professor Susan Seager.  We interviewed her in the wake of arrests of two California journalists in recent weeks, among other press freedom violations.

Suppression of the press isn’t supposed to happen anywhere in America, but especially not in California, where it’s explicitly against the law for police to intentionally interfere with journalists covering a demonstration.

UK’s May 20 Assange hearing raises press freedom stakes

On Monday, the U.K. High Court will hold another hearing in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal case challenging his extradition to the United States. If the court rejects Assange’s request to appeal, he could be quickly sent to the U.S. to face charges under the Espionage Act.

Prosecuting and convicting Assange under the Espionage Act would be a disaster for press freedom. Under the government’s legal theory, any journalist could be convicted for acts journalists engage in every day, like seeking and receiving national defense information from sources and publishing the information.

The U.K. High Court should grant Assange’s appeal. But the U.S. shouldn’t wait for the U.K. Tell the Biden administration to drop this dangerous case once and for all.

Censorship bill could hit nonprofit news

We wrote last week about an alarming new bill in Congress that would allow the secretary of the treasury to unilaterally revoke the tax-exempt status of nonprofit organizations, including nonprofit news outlets, if he deems them “terrorist supporting.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) Advocacy Director Seth Stern recently spoke to the Project Censored Show about this latest government attempt to go after nonprofits, including news outlets, that challenge official policies and narratives.

As Stern said, “We’re in an environment where despite all of these claims that Trump, if he gets a second term, is going to govern as a fascist, and that we’ve got to be on the lookout for authoritarianism, despite all that, we’ve got bipartisan bills providing him a dictator’s dream toolkit.” Listen to the whole episode here and tell your senator to reject the bill here.

Environmental journalists under threat

Recent events underscore that protests are one of the most dangerous places for journalists. Unfortunately, environmental journalists aren’t immune from arrests and attacks at protests, as well as other threats to their newsgathering rights.

FPF and the Society of Environmental Journalists recently hosted a conversation about the obstacles U.S. journalists face when reporting on environmental issues. Watch the discussion here or read some highlights on our website.

What we’re reading

Idaho State Police warned InvestigateWest that publishing story about secret recording might violate Idaho law (InvestigateWest). A detective wrongly warned InvestigateWest that publishing a source’s recording could break the law. It published anyway. Good. As FPF’s Stern said in response, cops who threaten journalists “should do their research and make sure that what they’re implying … has not been expressly rejected by the United States Supreme Court.”

Cowards in Trenton trampled on your right to know. Hold them — and Murphy — accountable ( Shame on the New Jersey legislature for passing a sham "reform" bill that makes it harder for journalists and the public to access public records. Gov. Phil Murphy must veto this awful bill.

OTI and CDT lead coalition opposing the Kids Off Social Media Act (New America). Once again, Congress is pushing pointless legislation in the name of “kids’ safety” that would actually result in online censorship. FPF was proud to join a coalition letter opposing the latest dangerous bill.

Courtroom photo ban adds to hurdles for Trump trial journalists (The Washington Post). “Judge Merchan’s collective punishment of the press for a technical violation by one individual is an unnecessary and harmful overreaction,” Stern told The Post. “It’s the public that will ultimately suffer.”

As original as apple pie: The reporter’s privilege at America’s founding (Medium). Matthew Schafer shows that the idea of protecting journalists from having to burn sources dates back to America’s founding. That’s all the more reason why the Senate should pass the PRESS Act this year.

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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.