A key part of a reporter’s job is to look beyond the story public officials want to tell and to ask uncomfortable questions. But when officials believe reporters go too far, can they ban them from attending future gatherings? And what First Amendment or other rights protect reporters from such actions?
According to the petition, Cohen was asked to sign a form agreeing not to publish the book as a condition of his release. His lawyers and the ACLU are asking the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for his immediate release into home confinement.
Public officials using libel suits as a weapon against the press is nothing new. In the time of Times v. Sullivan, southern officials had brought nearly $300 million in libel actions against the press. For reference, Nunes alone has brought just over $900 million in defamation claims in a twelve-month period.
Journalists have long understood the risks involved in covering protests, but the events of the past weekend point to a worrisome shift: journalists are not only finding themselves caught in the middle of violence; they are increasingly becoming targets.
"[T]he Court has significant concerns about forum shopping," U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge Robert E. Paynes wrote. "As the Court has explained to Plaintiff's counsel on numerous occasions, the Court cannot stand as a willing repository for cases which have no real nexus to this district.”
When Collins and another reporter refused to swap seats, the White House official allegedly told the reporters that the matter would be handled by the Secret Service.
“These suits will likely fail in court but in the meantime they’ll gratify Trump’s base, distract the press and public, and deter speech and journalism that are vital to our democracy. That's presumably the point," Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University Jameel Jaffer said on Twitter.
The family of Nicholas Sandman sued CNN back in March 2019 for $275 million over their reporting of a viral encounter between the Covington teen and an indigenous activist. Among other things, the lawsuit claimed CNN targeted Sandmann because he was a supporter of President Donald Trump.