U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

CBP agent asks British journalist entering U.S. if he’s part of the ‘fake news media’

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 22, 2019

Border Stop

Target Nationality
US Citizenship Status of Target
U.S. non-resident
Denied Entry?
Stopped Previously?
Asked for device access?
Asked intrusive questions about work?
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

While entering the U.S. through Los Angeles, California, from London, British journalist James Dyer said he was questioned whether he was part of ‘fake news.’

— REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
August 22, 2019

British journalist James Dyer said a Customs and Border Protection agent asked him if he was “part of the ‘fake news media’” as he passed through U.S. immigration in Los Angeles on Aug. 22, 2019.

Dyer, the digital editor-in-chief at Empire Magazine and host of Pilot TV Podcast, told The Washington Post that he arrived at LAX from London in the afternoon en route to Anaheim, California, to cover Disney’s D23 Expo.

In a long thread posted on Twitter shortly after the incident, Dyer said that the CBP agent at passport control saw that he was traveling on a journalist visa and began a tirade, questioning Dyer’s work history and legitimacy.

“Just went through LAX immigration,” Dyer wrote. “Presented my journalist visa and was stopped by the CBP agent and accused of being part of the ‘fake news media.’”

Dyer continued, “He wanted to know if I’d ever worked for CNN or MSNBC or other outlets that are ‘spreading lies to the American people.’ He aggressively told me that journalists are liars and are attacking their democracy.” Dyer noted that the entire exchange passed within a couple minutes.

In subsequent replies, Dyer clarified that the agent did not attempt to detain him or send him to secondary screening, and that he did not feel that he had been “mistreated or detained in any way.” Dyer wrote that he did not get the agent’s name and had not filed a complaint.

CBP Los Angeles tweeted at Dyer acknowledging that they were aware of the incident. “We strongly advise you to file a formal complaint,” the official account wrote.

In a statement to The Post, a CBP spokesperson said, “All CBP officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism.”

“Inappropriate comments or behavior are not tolerated, and do not reflect our values of vigilance, integrity and professionalism,” the statement said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented a similar case in February 2019, involving Australian BuzzFeed reporter David Mack. Mack tweeted that at passport control at JFK airport, a CBP agent “grilled” him for 10 minutes about the outlet’s reporting on Rober Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia.

BuzzFeed reported that a few days after the incident, CBP Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs, Andrew Meehan, apologize to Mack directly in a telephone call.

As of publication, Dyer had not responded to requests for comment from the Tracker.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].