U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

‘He simply reported’

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Published On
March 1, 2024
Press freedom incidents in the Tracker database

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

— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

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“He didn’t hack anything, he didn’t steal anything, he simply reported.”

That’s what Mark Rasch, attorney for Tim Burke, told us last week when the Department of Justice unsealed its indictment against the Florida-based independent journalist.

Burke is charged with 14 counts of conspiracy, wiretapping and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and is alleged to have gained access to the live feeds of two New York City-based media companies, downloaded files and published them. Part of the indictment centers around Burke releasing unpublished outtakes from a 2022 Tucker Carlson interview with Ye, formerly Kanye West, where the artist made antisemitic remarks.

Burke’s crime, attorney Rasch said, is doing journalism.

But Burke hasn’t been able to do much of that since the FBI raided his Tampa home office last May. Agents seized nearly all electronics in his entire newsroom, including nine computers, seven hard drives, four cellphones and multiple notebooks, locking him out of his email, social media and other accounts. Since then, some equipment has been released back to him, but not all of it.

“It’s a little like someone taking your car and then giving you the gas back,” Burke told us in November. “That gas runs the car but I still don’t have the car.”

Read in the Arrest/Criminal Charge category: Florida journalist indicted on allegations of conspiracy, computer fraud, wiretapping

Known DOJ subpoenas of journalists

Ironically, Burke’s indictment came down the day after the DOJ released new guidelines around when the department can subpoena journalists or secretly seek their sources.

The guidelines are follow-up to policies put in place by Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2022, after discovering the Trump administration had used secret subpoenas to gather information on journalists from The New York Times, The Guardian and CNN, among others.

Training: When the journalists are also students

Last week was Student Press Freedom Day, a national day of recognition of student journalists’ rights, organized by the Student Press Law Center.

In recognition of the vital importance of emerging journalists, Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) hosted a virtual training for journalism students on using Tracker data for reporting and covering press freedom issues. Catch a recording of “Data-Driven Coverage of Press Freedom” on FPF’s YouTube channel.

Incidents tagged 'student journalism' in the Tracker

Use the tag “student journalism” to find incidents in the database involving student journalists, like the recent lawsuit filed in California that accuses a Mountain View High School principal of bullying and threatening staff on the student newspaper, The Oracle.

An Oracle editor, a former reporter and a media adviser are suing their district and administration after they said they were forced to “water down” their investigations and the adviser, Carla Gomez, was removed from teaching a journalism class.

California is one of 17 states that passed legislation — known as “New Voices” legislation — protecting student journalists’ rights. “The case is important to me,” Gomez said in a statement, “because student journalists deserve to exercise their First Amendment rights without reprisal, censorship or threats.”

Paul Kandell, board member for the Journalism Education Association of Northern California, told the Tracker the case seemed like administrative overreach. “From the outside, it fits all the markers of an attempt to squelch the journalism program,” Kandell said.