Dec. 8, 2022: U.S. Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Saudi Crown Prince in Journalist’s Killing
A U.S. federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Dec. 6 against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and two of his alleged co-conspirators in the killing of journalist and democracy advocate Jamal Khashoggi. President Biden’s administration argued that the Saudi prince was immune legally as the head of state, and the federal judge heeded its suggestion.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates noted that the lawsuit included “credible allegations of his [Prince Mohammed] involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.” But, the U.S. urged the federal district court to dismiss the case, arguing that the “doctrine of head-of-state immunity” applied and that the “determination is controlling and is not subject to judicial review.”
Dec. 5, 2022: Journalists Injured by Police While Covering George Floyd Protests are Winning Large Settlements
Millions went into the streets during the summer of 2020 to protest the killing of George Floyd, pinned under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers. Two years later, attorneys representing municipalities, police departments and state agencies around the country remain embroiled in litigation and negotiated settlements to compensate journalists and citizens who were injured by law enforcement as they documented the protests.
Those who filed lawsuits claim they were targeted, victims of excessive force and still suffer from debilitating injuries.
The attacks raise serious questions about the law enforcement response in handling protests against police brutality and the chilling effect of that violent backlash. Nine days after Floyd’s death, the American Civil Liberties Union posted a story characterizing the attacks on journalists as a “full-scale assault on the First Amendment freedom of the press.”
As the attacks added up, so did the lawsuits filed on behalf of the media. U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an open-source database of press freedom incidents, reported at the two-year mark following Floyd’s death that at least 50 journalists covering the protests had filed First Amendment lawsuits against law enforcement.
Aug. 19, 2022: ‘We are Salman’ Supporters of Free Speech Rally in New York City
Exactly a week after writer and journalist Salman Rushdie survived a brutal assassination attempt in Chautauqua, New York, writers, journalists and poets joined PEN America outside the New York Public Library in solidarity, defiance and public celebration of Rushdie’s art, writing and perseverance in defending the freedom of expression.
The seriousness of the stabbing attack which cut his neck, liver and severed nerves in his arm, didn’t deter Rushdie from offering some ideas to PEN America about which readings of his the writers, editors and artists might deliver in front of a crowd of hundreds listening on the library steps for the #StandWithSalman event Friday morning.
March 18, 2021: Journalist Faces Charges for Lingering After Dispersal Order
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is charging a freelance journalist with failing to follow an order to disperse issued during the city’s World Series celebrations in October 2020.
Lexis-Olivier Ray, a freelance journalist, covered the chaotic celebrations for the news website L.A. Taco. Ray was not one of the 18 people arrested that night. Only months later, in February 2021, did he receive a letter in the mail notifying him that he was facing criminal charges.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Ray believes the department is retaliating against him for posting a video showing LAPD officers using violent tactics against him and others. One video showed an LAPD officer tackling Ray to the ground while he screamed “press.” The video has been viewed more than 400,000times and led the LAPD to open an internal investigation into police tactics.
“I find it difficult to believe that there isn’t a connection between my recent investigative reporting and the notice that I received from the City Attorney’s office,” Ray wrote in an email to The Times. “It’s disheartening to learn that I was the only person charged with failure to disperse that night as I am just working in good faith to keep our communities informed and hold our local officials accountable.”
The Los Angeles Times
Dec. 14, 2020: In a Year of Nationwide Protests, Journalists Face Unprecedented Arrests
A new report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) examines the impact of President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press and concludes that the president’s actions not only threaten democracy in the U.S., but also endanger press freedom across the globe.
“The Trump administration has stepped up prosecutions of news sources, interfered in the business of media owners, harassed journalists crossing U.S. borders, and empowered foreign leaders to restrict their own media,” the report says.
The CPJ report cites numerous attempts by Trump undermine the press including his recent defamation lawsuits against The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN; his unsuccessful attempts to take away White House press credentials from two reporters; and his efforts to retaliate against Jeff Bezos, who owns the Post and Amazon, by attempting to interfere with regulations that affect his businesses.
Written by Leonard Downie Jr., a former executive editor for The Washington Post, the report draws from more than forty interviews with journalists, press freedom advocates, journalism school deans, media lawyers, journalism professors, and Trump administration officials, as well as data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that has data on the number of arrests, physical attacks, and investigations of journalists.
Downie, who worked for the Post in the 1970s when the paper broke the Watergate scandal that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency, told the Post that he hoped the report helped people see “what’s going on.”
“People can see Trump’s attacks on the press, but not really know their impact” or scope, he told the Post. “You can be aware of the drip, drip, drip of this every day, but not see the whole picture, which is shocking.”
In the U.S., Trump’s repeated attacks on the credibility of the press have left many Americans doubting whether even fact-checked news sources can be trusted. This is particularly true among Republicans, who consistently express distrust for media outlets more often than Democrats, according to a 2019 Pew Research study on U.S. Media Polarization cited in the CPJ report.
CPJ U.S. Press Freedom Tracker
April 1, 2020: Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press Report that Physical Attacks on Journalists Have Increased
While President Donald Trump continued to disparage the media, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP) reported that journalists have also faced an increased number of attacks by public officials and agencies.
According to the RCFP’s 2019 U.S. Press Freedom Tracker report, protests continue to be the most dangerous place for journalists. In 2019, 34 reporter were attacked, with two of these assaults occurring during Trump rallies.
Additionally, while there were fewer arrests of journalists for the year—nine compared to 11 in 2018 and 38 in 2017—however, the number of subpoenas rose from 27 in 2019, compared to 25 in 2018 and eight in 2017.
The border between Mexico and the U.S. was a trouble spot for journalists, many of whom complained that they were detained and questioned by Customs and Border Protection officials.
Jan. 28, 2020: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Punishes NPR Reporter After Heated Exchange with Colleague
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially barred a veteran reporter for National Public Radio (NPR) from flying with him during an upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia on Monday, January 27th.
Pompeo removed Michele Kelemen from a list of reporters allowed to travel with him in an apparent act of retaliation against the news organization after Kelemen’s colleague, Mary Louise Kelly, got into a heated exchange with Pompeo. The argument with Kelly took place on Saturday, Jan. 25 and was about Pompeo’s treatment of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and the circumstances surrounding her removal.
Following Kelemen’s removal, the State Department Correspondent’s Association (SDCA) issued a statement urging the State Department to reconsider its decision.
“Michele is a consummate professional who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades,” the statement said. “The State Department press corps has a long tradition of accompanying secretaries of state on their travels and we find it unacceptable to punish an individual member of our association.”
The State Department has not responded to requests for comment from Politico, BBC, and Vox.
Dec. 16, 2019: County Commissioner’s Wife Attacked a Reporter, Poured Soda Over Her Head
Abbey Winters, the wife the Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters, assaulted a reporter during a county budget meeting on Friday, December 13. According to a police report and The Summerville News, the wife poured a drink on AllOnGeorgia reporter Casie Bryant’s head and then told her that she “deserved” it.
After the episode, Bryant remained quiet while others confronted Winters for her behavior.
According to The Washington Post, Bryant had not ever written a critical story about the county commissioner. Instead, the commissioner’s wife might have been motivated by a Facebook post where Bryant appeared to criticize a trip the official took to France.
“Fresh off his trip to Paris, he’s ready to talk about the budget to the PUBLIC,” the post read.
The commissioner and his wife told the police that the incident was not intentional, and that Winters “ accidentally” poured the drink on Bryant.
Delvis Dutton, the owner of AllOnGeorgia criticized Winter’s behavior and subsequent excuse in a statement published on the site.
“The media plays an integral role in ensuring transparency, and these types of antics are dangerous to open government and a disservice to the people it serves,” Dutton said.
After the meeting, Winters turned herself into the Chattooga County Jail, and was released on a $1,520 property bond. She has been charged with simple battery and disorderly conduct.
Washington Post AllonGerogia.com
Nov. 21, 2018: Knight First Amendment Institute Suing U.S. Intelligence Agencies Over Khashoggi’s Murder
The Knight First Amendment Institute is suing U.S. intelligence agencies to learn if they complied with a “duty to warn” journalist Jamal Khashoggi about threats to his life.
When an intelligence agency becomes aware of a threat of kidnapping or murder, it is obligated to inform the intended victim, and document and maintain records of its actions. The Knight Institute filed a FOIA request last month seeking records related to the murder, but none of the intelligence agencies have provided it with those documents.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says that before Khashoggi’s murder on October 2, 2018, U.S. intelligence agencies had apparently intercepted communications in which Saudi officials discussed a plan to kidnap Khashoggi. It is not clear, however, what the agencies learned from these conversations, or what steps they took to warn Khashoggi of the threats.
The Committee to Protect Journalists joined Knight in calling for the release of the records.
“The government must explain what it knew of the threat to Khashoggi before his killing, and what, if anything, it did to warn him of that threat,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in a statement.
Complaint Just Security
May 18, 2018: President Trump: ‘Fake News’ Country’s Biggest Enemy
NBC and CNN, familiar targets for President Trump’s condemnation, were called out on his Twitter account for their coverage of the North Korea summit. Trump tweeted a similar statement last year, calling the press “the enemy of the American people.”
A Trump 2020 campaign official tweeted that Jim Acosta, CNN‘s White House Correspondent, should have his press credentials suspended for asking Trump and Kim a question during the summit’s signing ceremony.
The Hill CNN
March 13th, 2018: Politicians and Other Officials Increasingly Taking Up the Fake News Mantra
The Associated Press reports that the governor of Maine, a New Mexico congressional candidate, the Georgia secretary of state and the vice chairman of Trump’s now-disbanded voter fraud commission all leaned on “fake news” in deriding opponents. Others have also brandished the term as a weapon against journalists doing investigative reporting. As “fake news” become more ubiquitous, press freedom is diminished say experts.
Feb. 15th, 2018: Fake Tweets Shake Journalists Reporting on Florida School Shooting
Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris was one of the first to reach out to students about what was going on at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School as a shooter rained chaos on campus. Soon after, doctored tweets attributed to her gained steam and the twitter universe exploded with accusations Harris was racist. “I had literally thousands of messages and they just filled up my mentions and DMs with terrible, racist, sexist, horrific, graphic death threats,” Harris told Buzzfeed. A report last year by the news service indicated Twitter was failing to crackdown on online harassment.
Winter 2018: What It Means To Be A Journalist In The Era of Trump
CJR reviews what has happened to journalists over the past year – and what may be in store.
Feb. 7, 2018: Journalists Need Legislated Protection Says House Rep
With attacks both verbal and physical against journalists on the rise, California Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell has introduced the Journalist Protection Act. “I seek to protect the CNN journalist as much as I seek to protect the Fox News journalist,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Jan. 19, 2018: CJR Looks at Trump’s Press Freedom Record
Joel Simon reviews 2017 and finds it alarming that, “The confrontations between Trump and reporters covering the White House make great television and define perceptions in the US and around the world. And it’s no small matter that several members of the White House press corps, including Jim Acosta and April Ryan, have received death threats.”
Jan. 2, 2018: Trump Ally Threats Press, Temporarily Blocked on Twitter
A Trump ally, former Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., was blocked temporarily from Twitter after a now deleted tweet called for violence against the media.
Nov. 14, 2017: Journalists Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood Await Trail Results In Rioting Case
Two of the nine journalists arrested during the inauguration day protests (of the 234 arrested in total) – Aaron Cantú, a staff reporter at The Santa Fe Reporter in New Mexico who worked as a freelancer in January, and Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist and videographer based in San Antonio – were charged with various felony charges related to rioting. Both men await trial results in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and if convicted, may face decades long sentences. Wood posted a Facebook Live video that showed him running with protestors which may be used against him. Freedom of press supporters says journalists cannot be charged for covering events. Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North America program coordinator for Committee to Protect Journalists, told the New York Times, “Criminal laws should require criminal intent, and so if a journalist is covering the story, that does not constitute criminal intent.”
New York Times The Hill US News & World Report
April 27, 2017 Felony Rioting – Superseding Indictment
Nov. 13, 2017: How A Two Year Crusade Against the Media Has Helped Roy Moore Deflect Abuse Allegations
Politico posits that the relentless tirade of “fake news” allegation against the media has enabled Roy Moore to defend himself against allegations of sextual abuse.
Oct. 31, 2017: Aggressive Police Takedown of Reporter Leaves Many Wondering Why
Video capturing the arrest of Shareblue Media’s Mike Stark show police officers aggressively confronting Stark. Fairfax County police are investigating. Did Stark break the law or was he being targeted and silenced?
Oct. 2, 2017: CJR Discusses What News Outlets Do When Journalists Get Arrested
When St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk was arrested for covering the September 17 protest after the decision to acquit Jason Stockley, the white ex-police officer who fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011, editors responded aggressively.
Sept. 4, 2017: Trump Government Agency Calls Erroneous Hurricane Coverage “Yellow Journalism”
Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker was singled out for erroneously reporting on fragility of the toxic sites in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. According to the AP piece, “Houston metro area has more than a dozen Superfund sites, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as being among America’s most intensely contaminated places. Many are now flooded, with the risk that waters were stirring dangerous sediment.” The EPA Associate Administrator, Liz Bowman, responded, “Once again, in an attempt to mislead Americans, the Associated Press is cherry-picking facts, as EPA is monitoring Superfund sites around Houston and we have a team of experts on the ground working with our state and local counterparts responding to Hurricane Harvey. Anything to the contrary is yellow journalism.” –
Aug. 2, 2017: U.S. Press Freedom Tracker Launches
Nearly two dozen press freedom organizations joined to track abuses against the press.
Freedom of the Press Foundation
July 7, 2017: CNN Bearing the Brunt of Trump’s Ire
Some analysts speculate the Trump could hold up the AT&T / Time Warner deal because of a long-simmering rift with CNN. Trump took to Twitter several times in early July calling out CNN as “Fake News” and “Fraud News” and including a meme of him bashing a CNN reporter.
May 16, 2017: Did Trump Encourage Comey to Jail Journalists?
Allegations that Trump asked Comey to jail journalists who published classified information continue to build. In a statement, Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, said “no president gets to jail journalists…Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information.”
Feb. 24, 2017: Trump—Press is “A Great Danger to Our Country”
President Trump, after criticizing the press in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, took to Twitter to call out the press as a “great danger.”
New York Times
Feb. 24, 2017: President Trump Disparaged the Press
In an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the President continued his attacks against the media.
Feb. 17, 2017: Trump—Press is “the Enemy of the American People”
Taking to Twitter, President Trump called the news media “the enemy of the American people. SICK” He quickly deleted the tweet and then replaced it with something similar.
New York Times
Feb. 27, 2017: President Bush Defends the Press
On the Today Show, Matt Lauer asked Bush: “Did you ever consider the media to be the enemy of the American people?” The President replied: “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.” Go to 2:15 of the interview.
Feb. 13, 2017: A Reporter Claims Threat of “Dossier” Used Against Her
A reporter for American Urban Radio Networks claimed that Omarosa Manigault, a communications official in the White House, “physically intimidated” her and asserted that officials had collected negative information about her.
Feb. 6, 2017: President Trump Blames Judge and Media for Any Future Terrorist Attack
The President attacked U.S. District Judge James L. Robart after he temporarily blocked the White House immigration order that denied entry to persons from seven countries with majority Muslim populations. In a speech, Trump also blamed the media.
Jan. 25, 2017: Stephen Bannon Calls News Media the “Opposition Party”
Chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” He called the news media “the opposition party.”
New York Times
Oct. 11, 2016: Guide to Attacks Against the Press
Media Matters provided a thorough list of attacks against news organizations and individual journalists as of Oct. 11, 2016