- Published On
- April 28, 2023
- Written by
- Kirstin McCudden from Freedom of the Press Foundation
Friends of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker:
Welcome back to your monthly newsletter around press freedom violations in the United States. Find archived editions here, and get this newsletter direct in your inbox by signing up here.
Fox News as news
From its ousting of extremist host Tucker Carlson to a $787.5-million dollar settlement in a defamation lawsuit with voting machine company Dominion, Fox is headlines this month.
After two years of damaging depositions and discovery and just hours before opening statements in a jury trial was to begin, Fox News settled claims that it falsely linked Dominion Voting Systems to voter fraud during the 2020. But legal challenges remain for the network: Voting systems company Smartmatic accuses Fox, its hosts and others — like then-President Donald Trump’s lawyers Rudy Guiliani and Sidney Powell — of airing similar claims of election rigging against it.
This month, Smartmatic subpoenaed former Fox producer Abby Grossberg for documents and communications from 2020 forward. (Separately, Grossberg has a lawsuit against Fox in which she says she was coerced into giving false testimony in the Dominion suit.) Grossberg’s attorney said they intend to fully comply with the subpoena.
Fox as news subject aside, this is the ninth subpoena issued to journalists or news organizations seeking footage or documentation around the 2020 election. Some came from the federal level, like the House Committee investigating the J6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, or from the state level, like investigations into allegations of election fraud in Georgia. Explore the database — we’ve tagged them all using #Election 2020:
Subpoenas and the 2020 election
Following the 2020 elections, 9 journalists or news organizations have been subpoenaed for source materials, documents or testimony.
NC journalists found guilty of trespassing
In December 2021, Asheville Blade reporters Matilda Bliss and Veronica Coit were arrested while covering a Christmas night homeless encampment sweep in North Carolina. Despite calls over the years from press freedom organizations to drop the charges, a bench trial was scheduled for the pair for September 2022, then delayed until January 2023 before being postponed yet again for this month. Bliss told the Tracker before the trial that the facts were being called into question, too. “It also appears that the prosecutor will attempt to prove that we were not acting as journalists, which is just absurd,” Bliss said.
On April 19, Judge J. Calvin Hill found both journalists guilty, and ordered them to pay a $25 fine and court costs. An appeal was immediately filed, which means the case now goes to a jury trial. Blade Editor David Forbes told Freedom of the Press Foundation that the sentences are on hold pending the results of that appeal, scheduled for May 1.
FPF Advocacy Director Seth Stern called the outcome disappointing, and that he hoped Asheville’s citizen jurors would uphold the First Amendment when the trial comes to them. “Whether it’s a mainstream outlet or one that public officials like is entirely irrelevant. They’re journalists under any definition of the word and entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment.