U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Our March 2021 Newsletter

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Published On
March 31, 2021
— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Each month, this newsletter opens with a snapshot of categories from our home page. Above is where we stand this last week of March.

In March, a journalist went on trial for reporting from a protest, another 15+ journalists were arrested or detained in one night while covering a different protest, and the Tracker surpassed documenting 400 journalists assaulted in 2020.

Journalism on Trial

On Monday, March 8, a rare occurrence in the United States unfolded in Des Moines, Iowa: A journalist went on trial for reporting. (You’d have to go to the Tracker’s 2018 archives to find another journalist on trial for reporting from a protest.)

Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri, arrested in May 2020 while covering a social justice protest in the city, was swiftly acquitted by a jury of both charges levied against her: failure to disperse and interference with official acts. The 3-day trial was widely covered by the press and press freedom advocacy groups, with many relying on Tracker documentation — everything from our 2020 arrest report that highlighted a 1200+ percent increase in journalists arrested in one year’s time to the site’s vast repository of individual incidents and filtering ability.

The Tracker currently lists charges pending for 10 journalists, and charges unknown for 5 journalists — from 2020 arrests. Our incredible partner network, including CPJ, deserves great thanks for helping us keep up with the ever-evolving hearings and updates. If you have information on press freedom aggressions, our TIPS submission portal is always open.

REUTERS/David Swanson

Los Angeles Police Department officers arrive at Echo Park Lake to evict homeless encampments. Protests against the eviction on March 25, 2021 resulted in several assaults of journalists and at least 15 arrested or detained while reporting.

— REUTERS/David Swanson

On Thursday, March 25, another rare occurrence unfolded, this time in Los Angeles: At least 19 journalists were arrested or detained while covering protests in the city’s Echo Park Lake. (You’d have to go to the Tracker’s 2017 archives to find that large of a grouping of journalists arrested at once, the nine arrested or detained during protests surrounding then-President Donald Trump’s January inauguration.)

As crowds demonstrated against the city’s plan to clear a large homeless encampment, Los Angeles Police Department officers kettled, or encircled, protesters and press.

At least 10 journalists were detained and eventually released; several also reported being assaulted; 9 were arrested and face failure to disperse charges.

Find all Echo Park Lake protest write-ups here. (The Tracker always documents arrests separately.)

Surpassing 400 Journalists Assaulted in 2020

I’ve spoken before how documenting the staggering amount of 2020 press freedom violations from across the nation has continued into the new year. Thanks to a team of contributors and our partners together with our incredibly dedicated internal team (it takes a village, amiright?) we’re edging closer to wrapping up the backlog. I’ll detail more here when we call a lid, but a number of note to share now: In March, we surpassed documenting 400 journalists assaulted in 2020.

That is more than the Tracker’s entire history of assaults, combined, since we launched in 2017. That’s the number en masse; I encourage you to read the individual stories here in our Assault category.

Courtesy George Chidi

While the majority of assaults in 2020 were reportedly perpetrated by law enforcement, on June 20 freelance writer George Chidi was beaten by several unknown assailants in Atlanta while he was covering the unrest following the June 12 police shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

— Courtesy George Chidi

Let Me Count the Reasons

Spring has officially arrived in the northern hemisphere, days are longer and the IRS tax filing deadline has been delayed a month — I can come up with reasons all day to donate to the Tracker. Our work is possible because of supporters like you.


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