A new survey released by the Freedom Forum entitled, “The First Amendment: Where America Stands,” reveals that while 94% of Americans value the First Amendment as vital, they are nonetheless divided on certain key issues. Many Americans appear reluctant to engage in speech that may be seen as controversial. According to the survey of 3,000 Americans in July and August 2020, more than four in 10 people say that, at least once, they haven’t expressed an opinion out of fear of being punished.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a report on August 31st highlighting a growing pattern of university students and outside groups calling for schools to punish professors for statements they made on sensitive political issues. The study showed that the number of targeting incidents against professors has risen precipitously since 2015.
A new report found that NYPD officers deployed during the George Floyd protests this summer "failed to discriminate between lawful, peaceful protesters and unlawful actors,” and frequently resorted to aggressive crowd control tactics that failed to adequately take protesters' expressive rights into consideration.
Drawing on data collected by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the report showed at least 117 verified cases of journalists arrested in 2020. The number represents a 1200% increase from 2019 when only nine cases were confirmed.
The report details 35 incidents of universities punishing students or faculty for speech online, and 10 universities with policies in place that FIRE says give administrators “immense power to punish large swaths of speech.” According to the advocacy group, many public universities are acting like the First Amendment applies differently to online speech.
While the majority of Americans believe the press is important to maintain a free society, many are pessimistic about the media’s ability to publish objective news stories. Released on August 4, 2020, the report is based on the responses of 20,000 U.S. adults collected between November 2019–February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic hit and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The public health crisis provides authoritarian governments with an opportunity to implement the notorious ‘shock doctrine’ – to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.
Reporters Committee Attorney and author of the 2019 Press Freedom Report Sarah Matthews explains why borders and protests remain risky for journalists, as well as how data collected in the US Press Freedom Tracker drives her advocacy work.