‘National security’ claims don’t trump First Amendment

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Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022. (Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Invoking ‘classified information’ doesn’t suspend the First Amendment

Most analyses of Monday’s Supreme Court argument in Murthy v. Missouri, the case about government pressure on social media content moderation, agree that the justices are likely to rule that the government can influence platforms’ moderation decisions.

But when it comes to alleged threats to “national security,” some justices seemed willing to let the government go even further by coercing — or even requiring — takedowns.

It would be incredibly dangerous for the Supreme Court to allow the government greater leeway to coerce platforms to not publish classified information or other materials it claims would harm national security. It would also contradict landmark First Amendment decisions like the Pentagon Papers case and create a troubling precedent for the prosecution of Julian Assange and for journalists who report on classified materials. Read more on our website.

PRESS Act push continues

Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) Executive Director Trevor Timm appeared this week on Chris Cuomo’s show on NewsNation to explain why the PRESS Act — the bill that would help end government surveillance of journalists — is the most important press freedom bill in modern history.

Timm explained that journalists “make their bread and butter by making confidences with their sources.” Without the PRESS Act, the public will continue missing out on news because sources “don't know if they're going to be under investigation" for talking to reporters.

FPF also wrote two recent op-eds, in The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the Shreveport Times in Louisiana, explaining why Sens. Chuck Grassley and John Kennedy should support the PRESS Act to further their legacies as defenders of the First Amendment.

States ‘celebrate’ Sunshine Week with anti-transparency bills

The annual celebration of government openness and public records known as Sunshine Week may be over, but journalists’ fight for transparency continues.

To honor this year’s Sunshine Week, we published a new analysis by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker Senior Reporter Stephanie Sugars about the costs of agencies’ pointless battles against records requests. We also hosted an X Space on the same topic with Sugars and David Cuillier, director of the Freedom of Information Project at the Brechner Center for the Advancement of the First Amendment.

But some states took a different and sickeningly ironic approach to marking Sunshine Week, by trying to crack down on the public’s access to government records and meetings. Read more here about the worst offenders — New Jersey, Colorado, and California — and one ray of hope from New York.

What we’re reading

US reportedly considering plea deal offer for Julian Assange. Obtaining and publishing classified documents from sources isn't "mishandling," it's journalism. If Julian Assange chooses to take a plea deal to end his imprisonment, we certainly can't blame him for that decision (although his lawyers say they have no indication an offer is on the table). But he never should've been put in this position in the first place.

Drone footage raises questions about Israeli justification for deadly strike on Gaza journalists. An incredibly deep dive from The Washington Post examines an Israeli missile strike targeting a car carrying four Palestinian journalists, killing two members of an Al Jazeera crew in January. The strike needs to be thoroughly investigated and, unless it’s credibly proven that the Post somehow got this entirely wrong, all those involved need to be held accountable.

Our government’s quiet war on press freedom. At a moment when the U.S. media is particularly vulnerable, the federal government continues pursuing a multifront attack on press freedom. That includes the cases of Julian Assange, Tim Burke, and Catherine Herridge.

Cops and judges can't get away with violating reporters' First Amendment rights. An illegal warrant and gag order against an independent news outlet in San Francisco were eventually voided, but officials should’ve known better from the outset. It’s inexcusable that cops and judges understand so little about the First Amendment.

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‘Spy draft’ bill threatens press freedom

The Senate is dangerously close to passing a bill that would allow intelligence agencies to essentially “institute a spy draft” and order everyone from dentists to plumbers to surveil their patients and customers’ communications. The RISAA would also allow the government to order commercial landlords who rent space to media outlets, or contractors who service newsrooms, to help it spy on American journalists’ communications with foreign sources.

Stop this horrifying mass surveillance bill

The House has slipped a horrifying amendment into its bill extending intelligence agencies’ already expansive spying powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Anyone who values press freedom — or their own freedom — needs to tell their senators TODAY to VOTE NO on the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, or RISAA, by calling 202-899-8938.

‘Imperative’ to pass PRESS Act

Veteran journalist Catherine Herridge threw her full support behind the PRESS Act, the federal bill to put an end to surveillance and subpoenas to force journalists to out their sources, during Congressional testimony on April 11, 2024.