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Our July 2020 Newsletter

July 1, 2020

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Welcome back to your monthly newsletter around press freedom violations in the United States.

Each month, the newsletter opens with a snapshot of categories from our home page. This is what you saw on the first day of June:

June overview

And this is what our home page looked like on the last day of June:

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A lot has changed in one month. Here’s what the Tracker is doing about it:

As Black Lives Matter protests began in late May — spurred by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota — reports of aggressions against journalists — mostly assaults and arrests — bagan to pour into the Tracker.

We took the rare step of releasing live via Twitter raw numbers and accounts of what was happening.

In the past 30 days, more than 470 aggressions have been reported to us from the public, our partners and journalists themselves.

We’ve spent the last month working furiously. The importance of documenting these — and doing it as quickly as we can — is not lost: The conversations and reckoning that lie ahead of us as a country are taking shape right now.

To do all of this, and still meet our editorial process of independently verifying each report and meticulously cataloguing it, has been a small feat and a story of collaboration. Working in close partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists, a founding member of the Tracker, we’ve scaled up researchers, reporters and editors. We’ve brought on student journalists and veteran newsies. We’ve talked about the Tracker and state of press freedom to international media, national outlets and local call-in radio shows.

No matter where we’re talking about it, the message is the same: What’s happened in 70 cities in more than 30 states across the nation in one month is unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history and surpasses the Tracker’s entire 3-year history of documentation.

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As we’ve reported these accounts, we’ve heard first-hand from journalists the most harrowing of tales. At least two reporters have suffered permanent eye injuries. Arrests of journalists while they scream, “I’m press! I’m press!” In several cases, journalists have already filed lawsuits against cities and police departments for excessive use of force.

Find every single one of these stories as they are published on this special page, Press Freedom in Crisis.

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Updates

In addition to protest-related aggressions, the Tracker continues its ‘regular’ work of documenting threats to press freedom, including subpoenas and non-protest assaults. We also continuously update our database as incidents evolve. Some recent ones:

  • As part of a settlement following the illegal 2019 raids on the home and property of journalist Bryan Carmody, the San Francisco police department formally “acknowledged the need to hold us press protections.” In March, the city agreed to a $369,000 settlement to Carmody.
  • An April memo made public on June 14 revealed that the Centers for Disease Control had barred staff from responding to media requests from Voice of America, citing a White House newsletter that accused the news outlet of uncritically spreading Chinese state propaganda.
  • A federal appeals court unanimously ruled in favor of Playboy’s White House correspondent Brian Karem on June 5, finding that his right to due process was violated when his hard pass was revoked last year.
  • A judge ruled to dismiss the defamation suit brought against Sam Toll, publisher of the online-only Storey Teller, on June 15. The decision brings an end — for now — to a case that has redefined the state of Nevada’s shield law.
  • Former counterterrorism analyst Henry Kyle Frese was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on June 18, after pleading guilty to sharing classified information with two journalists.
  • The State Department re-classified four additional Chinese-run outlets as “foreign missions” on June 22, the latest in a series of escalations between the U.S. and China, with journalists in the middle. Nine Chinese media organizations are now classified as such.

Welcome and Support

Finally, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to our newest partners, International Women’s Media Fund and National Writers Union. The work we do here is not possible without the support of our partner organizations and newsletter readers like you. Find all Tracker partners here.

Consider a donation to the Tracker to make our work possible today and in the years to come.

Best,
Kirstin
Managing Editor, U.S. Press Freedom Tracker