Nine days after George Floyd’s death, the American Civil Liberties Union posted a story characterizing the attacks on journalists covering the protests as a “full-scale assault on the First Amendment freedom of the press.” Lawsuits were filed and we detail the top three settlements this year obtained by journalists and a citizen documenting the protests.
On June 2nd, the Department of Justice revealed that during the administration of former President Donald Trump, the DOJ acquired the phone records of four reporters from The New York Times. The phone records date from the first several months of 2017.
On May 26th, New Mexico journalist Tabitha Clay filed a lawsuit against the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office. Clay claims local law enforcement violated her First Amendment rights by allegedly retaliating against her and withholding information after she wrote an article in May of 2019 detailing a sheriff’s deputy’s deployment of a taser on a 15-year-old special education student.
On May 5th, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concerning news coverage conducted by a local television station.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed new voting legislation on May 6th. The bill signing was broadcasted live on Fox & Friends, a morning news program on Fox News Channel, but all other media outlets were denied access. The decision drew criticism from media organizations and First Amendment scholars.
The Malheur Enterprise, a local newspaper, requested documents last October as part of its ongoing investigation into whether a state legislator was using his official position to help his private business. On February 5th, the county's district attorney ordered the government agency to disclose the unredacted documents.
The ninth circuit reinstated a lower court's injunction exempting journalists and legal observers from general dispersal orders. Many reporters say they have been assaulted by federal agents despite remaining several feet away from protests.
In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit wrote that the lower court’s restraining order was too broad because it failed to specify who qualified as a journalist or legal observer. In previous hearings, the federal government had argued that differentiating between journalists and protesters was especially difficult given that some protesters wear press insignia to avoid the police’s crowd control tactics.