Friends of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker:
Welcome back to your newsletter around press freedom violations in the United States. Sign up here to receive this monthly update directly in your inbox.
So far this year, we’ve recorded 5 assaults of journalists — 2 of which included damage to news equipment — 1 arrest of a journalist, 1 subpoena and multiple chilling statements and denials of access incidents. Find these, plus blogs with analysis and more, through our home page.
Incidents in the Big Apple
I strive to avoid an East Coast bias, but this month has two New York City-based incidents worth highlighting.
On Feb. 11, New York police officers arrested photojournalist Amr Alfiky for taking video of another man being arrested in Manhattan. Alfiky, photo editor at ABC News and a contributor to Reuters and The New York Times, was taken into custody, held for several hours and charged with disorderly conduct. His press pass — issued by the New York Police Department — was returned to him several days later. Alfiky’s lawyer told the Tracker that he’s working to have the charge dismissed before Alfiky’s summons at the end of March. We’re following the case.
Separately, as part of an internal leak investigation, NYPD had subpoenaed Twitter in December for the contact information, IP and internet connection history of New York Post police bureau chief Tina Moore, who had tweeted photos of a crime scene.
Twitter notified Moore this February of the subpoena and told the Tracker that it did not comply with the data-oriented request. This subpoena caused a stir as it claimed legal authority under a provision of the Patriot Act, a post-9/11 federal law that expanded law enforcement authorities.
NY Mayor Bill de Blasio called the subpoena “a mistake,” the Committee to Protect Journalists called using the Patriot Act a “gross overstep,” and the NY Post called the department’s actions “antithetical to a free press.”
The NYPD withdrew the subpoena.
Assaults and Protests
While covering late-January protests against the Puerto Rican government, two journalists were assaulted while attempting to stop damage to their news van.
According to a NotiCentro WAPA-TV editorial following the event, protesters in Old San Juan were damaging the news vehicle doors and mirrors and spray painting the vehicle. When they attempted to set it on fire, NotiCentro reporter Kefrén Velázquez interceded. That’s when both he and photojournalist Luis Ojeda were attacked with stones and wood.
Including these two attacks, the Tracker has documented assaults of 5 journalists so far in 2020.
In 2019, the Tracker captured 38 total assaults, which we classify as “journalists who face physical violence and injury, either as the result of a targeted attack by a public or private individual or in the course of their work.” Nine of these were at protests. We documented 43 assaults in 2018 and 49 assaults in 2017. Use our home page search function and tags like “protest” to get specific numbers from each category.
All the Updates
In addition to reporting press freedom violations as they happen, we continuously update our database as incidents evolve.
- On Feb. 18 a federal judge in New York dismissed what was essentially a subpoena from outside of the U.S. against Fast Company senior news editor Marcus Baram. The application for discovery was part of a multi-pronged legal attempt for source information from Baram and the business magazine.
- On Feb. 20, Henry Kyle Frese pleaded guilty to sharing information with two journalists. Frese was a counterterrorism analyst for the U.S. Department of Intelligence when he was arrested and charged with willful disclosure of top secret information, and is the eighth person to be investigated by President Trump’s administration for sharing information with the media.
Managing Editor, USPFT
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