Government must explain newsroom raid

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An FBI raid on journalist Tim Burke’s home newsroom in May 2023 and the government’s refusal to explain it risks chilling journalism.

(Courtesy of Tim Burke)

DOJ must explain Tim Burke newsroom raid

It’s been more than seven months since the FBI raid of Florida journalist Tim Burke’s home newsroom, after Burke found and publicized Fox News interview outtakes where rapper Ye made antisemitic remarks. Yet the government still hasn’t explained the basis for the raid or returned all of Burke’s seized equipment and information.

That’s a huge problem for press freedom, as explained in an amicus brief filed this week by Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), the ACLU, and five other organizations. The brief support of Burke’s request to unseal the affidavit filed with the search warrant that authorized the raid, and his request to return seized newsgathering materials. Read more about how the DOJ’s opacity and potential abuse of computer hacking laws is chilling journalism.

You can also read and listen to our interview with Burke and another victim of a recent newsroom raid, Marion County Record publisher Eric Meyer.

It should explain its Project Veritas investigation, too

Project Veritas’ future looks uncertain after its CEO resigned last month, calling the right-wing group an “unsalvageable mess.” But if the end is near, its most enduring legacy might arise not from its infamous hidden camera stings but from a court case over the alleged theft of Ashley Biden’s journal — and its potential impact on constitutional protections for gathering news.

A recent ruling fails to resolve concerns that investigating Project Veritas for obtaining the journal — after the fact from a source that allegedly stole it — would violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has long held that journalists are entitled to possess and publish records their sources obtained illegally as long as they weren’t involved in the crimes. We're not shedding any tears for Project Veritas, but a bad precedent arising from a case involving them is likely to be applied against other, more reputable outlets in the future. Read more here.

FPF’s most-read articles of 2023

Catch up on anything from FPF you may have missed in 2023 with our thread on X, formerly Twitter, featuring the most-read guides and articles on our website last year, including tips for using Signal, our remembrance of our co-founder Daniel Ellsberg, and lessons for whistleblowers and journalists on the 10th anniversary of longtime FPF board member Edward Snowden’s stunning revelations of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. In case you’re not on X, the articles are also listed below:

What we’re reading

Israeli military censor bans reporting on these 8 subjects. Israel is now banning almost any detailed reporting on the Israel-Gaza war unless it’s submitted to its “censorship” office for review. While it’s censoring international journalists in Israel, it’s still not allowing them into Gaza at all. A few weeks ago, Politico reported that Biden officials didn’t want journalists covering the war because it feared transparency would turn public opinion against Israel. If that report wasn’t true, now seems like a good time for the Biden administration to say so.

“Free the Truth”: The Belmarsh Tribunal on Julian Assange & Defending Press Freedom. ICYMI, check out highlights from the Belmarsh Tribunal held last month in Washington, D.C., where journalists, lawyers, activists, and other expert witnesses — including FPF Executive Director Trevor Timm — explained why prosecuting Julian Assange endangers press freedom.

The Wildly Popular Police Scanner Goes Silent for Many. Police around the U.S. are increasingly encrypting police radio channels, shutting out journalists, photographers, and members of the public, making it harder to report on breaking news and inform the public about crime and emergencies. There’s no reason for police forces to continue to jump on this anti-transparency bandwagon.

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