U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Philadelphia journalist barred from district attorney’s news conferences

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 17, 2024

Denial of Access

Government agency or public official involved
Type of denial
Government event
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, pictured, barred independent journalist Ralph Cipriano on May 17, 2024, from attending any of his news conferences, accusing Cipriano of “violating basic decorum.”

— REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
May 29, 2024 - Update

Philadelphia DA lifts news conference ban on reporter

Independent journalist Ralph Cipriano was allowed back into Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s news conferences on May 29, 2024, two weeks after being banned for “violating basic decorum,” Cipriano confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker via email.

Cipriano, a frequent critic of Krasner, attended one of the DA’s news conferences on May 16, where he tried several times to ask questions. The journalist told the Tracker Krasner mocked and repeatedly rebuked him for speaking without having been called on and accused him of “harassing legitimate press.” The next day, DA spokesperson Dustin Slaughter told Cipriano that he was banned from attending further news conferences.

But two weeks later, without any other notification that the ban had been lifted, Cipriano received an emailed invitation to a news conference from Slaughter. The email, which Cipriano provided to the Tracker, included the following paragraph outlining rules for attendees’ behavior: “The DAO kindly requests that members of the news media attending in person adhere to decorum, which includes refraining from disrupting the DAO’s invited speakers, asking questions at the appropriate juncture, when called upon, and refraining from interrupting other journalists during the Q&A portion of the event. Failure to adhere to these standards of decorum may affect your ability to attend future press conferences.”

Cipriano told the Tracker that other reporters had received the same email.

“I believe his new policy is just another way to intimidate journalists and continue his campaign of viewpoint discrimination against me, which is unconstitutional,” Cipriano said. “If the DA won’t answer my questions by email, and he typically runs away from his pressers without answering my questions, my only remaining alternative is to interrupt him when he starts his Q & A. His new policy, however, gives him the right to ban me again if I do just that.”

May 17, 2024

Independent journalist Ralph Cipriano was barred on May 17, 2024, from attending any of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s news conferences, a spokesperson from the DA’s office confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Cipriano wrote in a post on his Substack newsletter Big Trial that he was notified of the ban a day after attending one of Krasner’s news conferences, which Krasner held to announce a recent arrest by his office.

At that news conference, a livestream of which was posted on YouTube, Cipriano tried several times to ask the DA about two murder cases his office prosecuted, while Krasner mocked and then repeatedly rebuked Cipriano for asking questions without having been called on.

At one point, Krasner yelled at Cipriano, “Why are you even here? What is the point? That wasn’t even a question.”

Cipriano twice asked reporters who had been called on by Krasner to let him ask his questions; in response, Krasner accused him of “harassing legitimate press,” ordering him, “Can you stop it?”

“There are professional journalists here who work for legitimate journalistic outlets,” Krasner said. “You are being disrespectful of actual journalists. You are disrespectful of all the rules.” He referred to a reporter from The Philadelphia Tribune as “a legitimate reporter from a legitimate news organization, not a blogger, and (Cipriano) is preventing her from doing her job.”

After calling the news conference to a close, Cipriano wrote, Krasner walked over to the journalist and told him that he would not be allowed to attend any further news conferences.

“We are going to stop you from coming in because you are disrespectful to every reporter here,” Krasner said, according to Cipriano. “You observe no journalistic standards. You never follow the rules.” Cipriano responded, “You don’t know what a journalist is, sir.”

The next day, Cipriano wrote, a city detective assigned to the DA’s office stopped him before he could be buzzed upstairs to attend that day’s news conference. DA spokesperson Dustin Slaughter then told Cipriano, “You disrupted a press conference yesterday. You’re no longer permitted here.”

Cipriano is a frequent critic of Krasner and has repeatedly clashed with the DA, including when he was physically removed from a news conference in August 2022. He wrote on Substack that he had been attending the DA’s news conferences since July 2022. But in a May 10, 2024, post, he noted that for almost five years, neither Krasner nor his spokespeople have responded to any of his emailed questions.

“We're not allowing Mr. Cipriano to attend our press events due to him repeatedly violating basic decorum, such as acting out of turn and interrupting other journalists multiple times while reporters attempted to ask questions of the DA,” Slaughter told the Tracker. “The only requirement that we ask of press who attend our events is that they not disrupt the press conference.”

Cipriano told the Tracker that “the DA’s office has no written rules or policies for press conferences,” and that he had not had any further contact with Krasner’s office since May 17. The Tracker twice requested that Slaughter send a documented policy that Cipriano had violated; Slaughter did not respond.

“This is plainly unconstitutional,” Cipriano wrote in his post about the incident. “As a government official, Krasner has no right to restrict the First Amendment rights of reporters by dictating to them what questions they can and can’t ask.”

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