U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Arrests of journalists already doubled over last year

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Published On
May 30, 2024

Friends of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker:

Welcome back to your newsletter around press freedom violations in the United States. Find archived editions here, and get this newsletter directly in your inbox by signing up here.

U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

A snapshot of all incidents documented in the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker so far this year.

— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

One month later — arrests have doubled

In my last newsletter, I wrote about journalists covering local reaction to the Israel-Gaza war, noting that as April came to an end, we had documented 13 arrests or detainments of members of the press, and were actively reporting on more. Active, indeed: As of today, we’ve documented 36.

Importantly, the number of journalists arrested or detained so far this year — which is not even half over — is more than the last two years combined.

In addition to arrests, we’ve captured more than 30 assaults of journalists under our “Israel-Gaza war” tag since Oct. 7, 2023 — seven of those on student journalists — and nine reports of damaged equipment.

Aggressions against media covering Israel-Gaza war

Four years after Floyd — looking back at attacks on journalists

Our data shows that year-over-year, protests remain dangerous places for journalists.

No more so than four years ago this month when videos of a white Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd, a Black man, went viral. The resulting large-scale national protests against police brutality — met with aggressive law enforcement reaction — were covered coast-to-coast by journalists, hundreds of whom were also arrested or assaulted, often tear-gassed and hit with projectiles like rubber bullets.

REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

“I’m press! I’m press!” Shortly after taking this photograph of a Minneapolis police officer clearing a cameraman from near the police department’s Fifth Precinct on May 30, 2020, Reuters photojournalist Adam Bettcher was shot at with a projectile.

— REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

In the two weeks following Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, more than 300 journalists were assaulted while covering protests across the U.S. To put that in perspective, those two weeks doubled the number of assaults in the entire database at the time.

By the time Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer, was convicted on multiple counts of Floyd’s murder in April 2021, more than 630 journalists had been assaulted — 85% by law enforcement.

Assaults of journalists covering BLM, 2020-2021

From the May 2020 murder of George Floyd to the conviction of his assailant in April 2021, the vast majority of assaults of journalists covering BLM came at the hands of law enforcement officers.

In addition to assaults, numerous journalists covering Black Lives Matter over the years have been arrested or detained — 180 total — or had their equipment damaged or seized, or were subpoenaed for reporting materials. You can search the database using the tag “Black Lives Matter.”