NYPD must stop arresting journalists

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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.

Journalist Reed Dunlea is arrested at a protest in Brooklyn

Journalist Reed Dunlea was arrested earlier this month while recording for his podcast, “Scene Report,” at a protest in New York City. We sent a letter with the Committee to Protect Journalists urging authorities to drop the baseless charges against him. 

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Photo courtesy of Stephanie Keith

NYPD: Drop charges against journalist 

Earlier this month, New York Police Department officers arrested journalist Reed Dunlea while he attempted to cover a pro-Palestinian protest for his podcast, “Scene Report.” Ultimately, Dunlea was only charged with resisting arrest, seemingly confirming that authorities could find nothing criminal about the newsgathering that led to his arrest in the first place. 

Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez raising alarm about the arrest — during which officers violently tackled Dunlea, breaking his equipment — and calling on Gonzalez’s office to drop the charges against Dunlea immediately.  

“Detaining and charging a reporter in this manner is a direct assault on journalists’ First Amendment rights to gather the news,” the letter explains, adding that “arresting reporters is a crude form of censorship: it stops journalists from documenting current events, and protracted legal proceedings to dismiss baseless charges create financial and time pressures for reporters.” Read more here about Dunlea’s arrest and the NYPD’s long history of harassing and wrongfully arresting journalists. 

How social media cases could impact press freedom

Should the online platform Substack be allowed to ban Nazis? Not should it ban Nazis. But should it be legally allowed to ban Nazis? 

The answer may hinge on the outcome of two cases argued before the Supreme Court on Monday. In NetChoice v. Paxton and Moody v. NetChoice, the court is considering First Amendment protections for platforms’ content moderation decisions. The court’s eventual decision could reshape both the internet and First Amendment law. 

Based on the court’s responses to the arguments, Freedom of Press Foundation (FPF) Deputy Director of Advocacy Caitlin Vogus writes that journalists should watch the court’s decisions for two things: First, to see if the court limits the ability to challenge laws that violate First Amendment rights as facially invalid, that is, unconstitutional in all circumstances; and second, how it treats a landmark press freedom decision, Miami Herald v. Tornillo.

Read more on our website about the arguments and what these cases may mean for journalists and the First Amendment. 

Lawmakers and journalists speak up about press freedom in Gaza

Fifty-five journalists from U.S. and U.K. outlets including ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN recently sent a letter urging Israel and Egypt to lift the “news blockade” preventing foreign journalists from entering Gaza to report on the war.

Access is needed not just to relieve local journalists of sole responsibility for informing the world, while also attempting to keep themselves and their families alive, but to ensure that global audiences trust what they read. A similar letter from 11 organizations in November failed to result in any policy changes but, with the war approaching its fifth month and at least 94 journalists reportedly killed, it’s well past time to allow the global press into Gaza.

Additionally, a group of U.S. lawmakers, led by Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jan Schakowsky, sent a letter this week urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take concrete steps to protect journalists in Gaza. In another letter this week, leaders of more than 30 news outlets said they “stand united with Palestinian journalists in their call for safety, protection, and the freedom to report.” A prior letter led by Sen. Brian Schatz also urged the administration to do more to protect journalists, as did a letter from FPF and other press freedom and human rights groups. 

The killings of journalists in Gaza are a shocking violation of international law and undermine press freedom, but, despite all those who have spoken out, so far officials have offered only empty platitudes. That needs to change.

What we’re reading

Basic press freedoms are at stake in the Julian Assange case. “The situation is dire. And not just for the life of one man. Assange’s case is the press freedom trial of the twenty-first century,” writes Chip Gibbons for Jacobin. Visit https://freedom.press/assange for much more about the threat Assange’s prosecution poses to the First Amendment.

Indictment of Florida journalist raises troubling questions. The troubling questions raised by the charges against Tim Burke include: Why is the DOJ trying to limit who qualifies as a journalist? Why is the DOJ using a law it admits is prone to abuse to target newsgathering? Is the DOJ ignoring the law and its own policies on investigations of journalists? 

South Carolina ban on prisoners’ media interviews violates First Amendment, lawsuit says. Barring incarcerated people from talking to journalists or publishing their own writing is blatantly unconstitutional. These restrictions have nothing to do with protecting crime victims and everything to do with allowing prisons to operate in secrecy.

No clawback of confidential discovery material inadvertently disclosed to reporter. A judge recognized that she has no power — jurisdictionally or constitutionally — to order a newspaper not to publish court docs that were given to journalists. That shouldn’t even be noteworthy but, unfortunately, these days it is.

City of Detroit wants $17,000 to fill FOIA request on controversial Detroit murals. Charging exorbitant fees to produce public records is just one of many ways that agencies use laws intended to promote transparency to achieve the exact opposite. It needs to stop – in Detroit and everywhere else.

We’re hiring

FPF is hiring! The Daniel Ellsberg Chair on Government Secrecy, established in honor of the legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower who co-founded FPF, will lead the national fight against excessive government secrecy — the root cause of so many press freedom and democracy issues.

Editor’s note: The original version of the letter about Reed Dunlea's arrest discussed in this newsletter was erroneously addressed to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg rather than Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. The letter and the references to Bragg in this newsletter and the article it links have been corrected.

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