U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalists covering mass shootings report harassment and threats of arrest

Incident Details

REUTERS/Veronica G. Cardenas

A media area is designated during a May 28, 2022, gathering to remember victims of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Journalists report harassment and threats of arrest while covering the aftermath of gun violence.

— REUTERS/Veronica G. Cardenas
June 1, 2022

While covering the aftermath of two recent mass shootings, journalists have reported hurdles to their news coverage, including harassment and threats of arrest by law enforcement.

On May 24, a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. About a week after, on June 1, a CNN crew visited the Uvalde school district headquarters, where police officers told the journalists they were trespassing and threatened to arrest them if they stepped back on the property. Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz recorded the interaction with Producer Matthew Friedman and posted the video on Twitter:

The following day, on June 2, Houston Chronicle reporter Julian Gill tweeted a video showing members of Guardians of the Children biker club following and surrounding him outside of the funeral of one of the children killed in the shooting. Gill also reported that the individuals attempted to physically obstruct cameras within the designated areas.

According to Newsweek, the Uvalde Police Department reportedly asked members of at least three biker groups to keep journalists “in line” during a funeral for one of the victims.

In a statement to the outlet, a board member of Guardians of the Children, one of the groups gathered outside Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary, denied the group obstructed anyone or that they were asked to be there by law enforcement.

On June 3, the Texas Tribune reported that Uvalde City Hall locked its doors during regular business hours and refused to “immediately provide any public records to reporters.” According to the Tribune, the move came as residents and journalists aim to hold Pete Arredondo, the chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department, accountable for waiting more than an hour for backup instead of immediately ordering officers to charge the gunman inside Robb Elementary School.

Nearly two weeks before the Uvalde school shooting, a gunman killed 10 people in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. Los Angeles Times reporter Connor Sheets said he was in Conklin, New York, a few days after the shooting when Sheriff’s deputies escorted him away from the alleged shooter's high school. The next day, deputies demanded that he also leave the school district’s central office and once again escorted him away from the building. "This restriction of media access seems to be part of the post-mass-shooting playbook," Sheets wrote in a tweet.

“These kinds of practices limit access to public information and can make it harder for journalists to do their jobs,” Sheets told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

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