Stop arresting journalists

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Promoting press freedom in the 21st century

Dear Friend of Press Freedom,

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 was arrested while recording for his podcast, Scene Report, at a pro-Palestinian protest in New York City on Feb. 10, 2024. Dunlea is one of at least four journalists arrested or detained while covering protests so far this year. (Stephanie Keith)

Police must stop arresting journalists

Just a few months into 2024, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented four arrests or detentions of journalists covering protests in New York, Tennessee, and California.

None of these arrests have received much attention or public outcry. That’s a shame. These arrests violate journalists’ rights, and they undermine the right of the public to learn about newsworthy events happening in their communities. They also show the disturbing and stubborn persistence of a system of policing that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about First Amendment rights.

For a closer look at the issue of cops arresting journalists, read our roundup and analysis of each of the cases documented by the Tracker so far this year on our website.

Herridge case shows need for PRESS Act

Veteran journalist Catherine Herridge, known for her time at CBS News and Fox News, is appealing a federal judge’s order holding her in contempt of court for refusing to burn her sources for her reporting on an online university’s alleged ties to the Chinese military.

Herridge’s case demonstrates the unpredictability journalists face when they commit to maintaining source confidentiality, underscoring the need for Congress to pass the PRESS Act. Herridge will reportedly testify about the need for a federal shield law before Congress next week. Read more on our website about why it's time for Congress to finally step in and protect journalists and their sources from subpoenas and surveillance.

Kansas newspaper files First Amendment case

This week, the Marion County Record sued the city and the out-of-control officials who authorized last year’s illegal and tragic raid on the Kansas paper’s newsroom and its publisher’s home.

According to the lawsuit, the raid was just the latest attempt by local officials to silence the newspaper. Although the Marion raid may have left the headlines, the story is not over. Investigations into the raid are ongoing and news continues to emerge about additional evidence of Marion officials’ retaliatory motives for their actions. Meanwhile, officials elsewhere do not appear to have learned their lesson from Marion. Bullying of the press persists nationwide.

Accountability is desperately needed so this doesn't happen again -- in Kansas or anywhere.

What we’re reading

Lawmakers try to gut Louisiana’s public records law, critics call it ‘extremely alarming’. Some lawmakers in Louisiana are apparently very concerned about what journalists and the public will find out using the state’s public records law. Good government doesn’t operate in secret, which is exactly what these anti-transparency bills would allow.

Missouri AG sues Media Matters as Republicans take on critics of Musk’s X. The Missouri attorney general is doing Elon Musk’s dirty work and violating the First Amendment in the process, just like his Texas counterpart did last year. States can’t “investigate” Media Matters just because they dislike its content. As we’ve previously said, if these tactics go unchecked, traditional newsrooms could be next.

Julian Assange’s Basic Press Freedoms Are Still in Danger. A U.K. court has delayed — for now — a ruling on Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. But the court gave short shrift to the press freedom issues at stake in the case and left the door open for the U.S. to provide “assurances” that would allow Assange to stand trial in the U.S. under the Espionage Act. The Biden administration must drop the Assange case before that happens.

Attacks, arrests, threats, censorship: The high risks of reporting the Israel-Gaza war. The Committee to Protect Journalists finds multiple incidents of journalists being arrested, censored, or otherwise targeted while working in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, in addition to the at least 95 journalists killed in the Israel-Gaza war. We also learned this week of Israel’s plans to ban Al Jazeera, further limiting the information available about the war.

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