Independent reporter Ralph Cipriano says he was “stonewalled” by the Philadelphia district attorney for writing critical articles, eventually culminating in his physical removal from an Aug. 8, 2022, press conference in Pennsylvania.
Cipriano, a former Los Angeles Times and Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who publishes the Big Trial blog, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he first started attending District Attorney Larry Krasner’s weekly press conferences in July after three years of no response from his requests for comment. Cipriano said that at every press conference, Krasner refused to take questions or call on him.
The district attorney’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment, holds weekly conferences to brief the media on local issues and events.
During an Aug. 8 press conference, the DA issued Cipriano a warning for not waiting until he was called to ask a question.
“That is not how we proceed,” Krasner said during the media event, which was live streamed and posted on Facebook. “Anyone who cannot observe those rules can leave and can leave now or be escorted out.”
According to Cipriano, he tried asking questions two more times and was warned by the DA a second time then asked to leave. After being escorted out of the venue, Cipriano wrote on his blog that the treatment was personal.
“After four years of presiding over free-for-all press conferences, the D.A. now maintains that reporters no longer have the right to speak up and ask him a question.”
Paula Knudsen Burke, a staff attorney for the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, requested written policies and rules that govern the DA’s office interaction with the press during media events as part of a Right-to-Know Law filing. In a letter to Krasner on behalf of Cipriano, Knudsen Burke highlighted that his office could not locate any written policies or guidelines for interactions with the media.
“It is clear that there are no ‘rules’ or procedures governing access to press conferences held by your office,” Knudsen Burke wrote.
She also objected to Cipriano’s removal from the press conference as unconstitutional under the First Amendment: “Government officials cannot make media access decisions based on the content of news coverage, media organizations’ interaction with government officials, or the agency’s perception thereof.”