U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Our September 2021 Newsletter

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Published On
September 30, 2021
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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.

Subpoenas from Covering BLM Protests

This month, three Wisconsin reporters were compelled to give testimony for an upcoming trial around the assault of a state senator during a Black Lives Matter protest in Madison last summer.

The reporters — WKOW broadcast reporter Lance Vesser, WORT-FM reporter and news and public affairs director Chali Pittman and Isthmus senior reporter Dylan Brogan — had objected to the subpoena, but on Sept. 9 a judge granted an order compelling the three journalists to comply with it and appear to testify next month.

“On principle we want to fight this but I’m not sure we can afford it.”

Isthmus senior reporter Dylan Brogan

Pittman told us that testifying would negatively affect her ability to do her job. “I work at a community radio station where I wear a lot of hats,” she said. “One of them is building ties with communities who may not have always trusted community radio or had their voices well-represented in media. So testifying would make that more difficult.”

Brogan, who works for the digital outlet Isthmus, told us that the reporters are considering appealing the ruling, but the financial burden is daunting.

“On principle we want to fight this but I’m not sure we can afford it,” he said.

So far, the Tracker has documented 12 journalists or news organizations that have been subpoenaed for testimony or reporting materials stemming from last summer’s social justice protests. Find those subpoenas and their outcomes here.

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

U.S. Capitol Police sit outside the Capitol ahead of a “Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C.

— REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Continued Reporting on Jan. 6 Riots

High fences surrounded the U.S. Capitol in Washington once again this month in advance of what organizers called a “Justice for J6” rally, supporting the more than 600 people who have been arrested or charged with a crime around the riots of Jan. 6.

Attendance for the Sept. 18 rally was reported as “sparse” with a large security and media presence, and no journalists were harmed. In comparison, the thousands who mobbed the Capitol in January harassed and assaulted journalists and damaged tens of thousands of dollars of professional equipment, as documented by Tracker. Find all press freedom violations from across the nation on Jan. 6 here.

Additionally, as people are arrested or charged in connection with assaults on media from that day, we’re detailing it here:

Hans Solo Season & Your Support

Our ability to follow subpoenas through the courts and track charges against those who assault journalists relies on your support. Now that fall has officially arrived (also known as Hans Solo season for the proliferation of zip-up vests and high boots), please consider a donation to the Tracker — you make our work possible.

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