U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student journalist arrested while covering Stanford protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 5, 2024

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Protesters gather at a pro-Palestinian encampment at Stanford University in April 2024. When police arrested students occupying an office on the California campus on June 5, a student journalist for The Stanford Daily was detained and charged as well.

— REUTERS/Carlos Barria
June 5, 2024

Dilan Gohill, a student journalist for The Stanford Daily, was arrested while reporting on a protest at the university’s campus in Stanford, California, on June 5, 2024.

The Daily reported that a group of students barricaded themselves into a building housing the president’s office at around 5:30 a.m., while more protesters gathered outside. The students demanded the school divest from weapons manufacturers, disclose endowment investments and drop disciplinary and criminal charges against pro-Palestinian students at Stanford.

Officers from the Stanford Department of Public Safety and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office entered the building at approximately 7:20 a.m., according to the Daily, and arrested at least a dozen protesters. The Daily reported that one of its reporters — later identified as Gohill — was among those detained, despite identifying himself as a journalist and showing law enforcement his press credential.

Gohill was transported to the Santa Clara County Jail alongside the protesters, where he was held for approximately 15 hours before being released on $20,000 bail, the Daily reported. He faces a felony burglary charge, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Stanford President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez, whose office was also in the occupied building, issued a statement that day saying they were appalled and saddened by the protest, and that in addition to pursuing the criminal charges, all arrested students would be suspended and seniors would be barred from graduating.

In a subsequent letter to the Daily’s board of directors on June 7, Saller and Martinez claimed that the incident raised “serious questions of journalistic ethics,” and that Gohill had no First Amendment right to cover the protest.

“The First Amendment does not protect the right to break, enter and/or trespass in a locked private building, and this case did not involve a police line or rolling closure,” the letter read. “Moreover, as a matter of policy, allowing reporters a right to trespass in private buildings merely because there are newsworthy materials or events of interest inside would create a multitude of problems.”

Saller and Martinez added that while they fully support having Gohill criminally prosecuted and have referred him to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards alongside the other students arrested that day, they have lifted his interim suspension and campus ban.

In an op-ed about Gohill’s arrest, the Daily’s editors wrote, “His arrest constitutes a threat to the freedom of the press, including protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and we are disappointed in the actions of officers and the University.”

Neither Editor-in-Chief Kaushikee Nayudu nor an attorney representing the Daily responded to requests for additional information.

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