U.S. Press Freedom Tracker newsletter: March 8, 2018

March 8, 2018

This is a copy of the email sent to newsletter subscribers on March 8, 2018. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.

Welcome to the latest edition of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker newsletter!

You’re receiving this email because you signed up for updates from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists that documents press freedom incidents in the United States.

In 2017, the Press Freedom Tracker documented:

  • 34 arrests
  • 15 equipment seizures
  • 44 physical attacks
  • 5 border stops
  • 5 subpoenas

So far this year, the Press Freedom Tracker has documented:

  • 0 arrests
  • 2 equipment seizures
  • 3 physical attacks
  • 0 border stops
  • 5 subpoenas

Forcing journalists to testify in court

Since the start of the year, at least five journalists have been subpoenaed to testify in court. In January, two TV documentary producers in California were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about an interview they conducted with Suge Knight, a former record producer on trial for murder. Meanwhile, the defense attorney for a white Chicago cop who was charged with murder after shooting an unarmed black man sent subpoenas to three local newspapers, ordering them to turn over all of their articles about the shooting.

Why do subpoenas matter? A subpoena is a court order directing someone to testify under oath and/or hand over documents to a court. Journalists often promise not to reveal information about sources who speak with them about sensitive subjects, which means that they cannot cooperate with a subpoena that asks them to reveal such information about their sources. For this reason, judges will often agree to quash subpoenas served on journalists, sparing them from testifying about confidential sources. But that’s not always the case. Since those who refuse to cooperate with a subpoena can be held in contempt of court and even thrown in jail, subpoenaed journalists can be put in a very difficult position, forced to choose between betraying their sources or going to jail. 

Reporter sues St. Louis police department

Mike Faulk, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has filed a civil rights suit against the City of St. Louis and a number of officers in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Faulk was one of ten journalists arrested while reporting on protests in downtown St. Louis last fall. In his lawsuit, Faulk describes police officers encircling protesters and journalists so that they could not leave the area and then violently arresting them. Faulk claims that one officer pepper-sprayed him in the face while he was handcuffed on the ground and that another officer put a boot on his head and pushed his face into the asphalt.
Jon Ziegler, one of the other journalists arrested while covering protests in St. Louis, captured some of the police’s heavy-handed response to protesters and journalists on video: 

Judge orders newspaper not to publish autopsy report

On February 9, a judge in Las Vegas ordered the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Associated Press not to publish any details from the autopsy report of Charles Hartfield, an off-duty police officer who was killed in a mass shooting last year. The judge’s ruling came shortly after the Clark County coroner’s office released copies of all of the mass shooting victims’ autopsy reports, with their names and other personal information redacted, to the public. The Review-Journal and the AP appealed the judge’s order. On February 27, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the judge’s order violated the First Amendment.

Latest incidents

Check out a few of the most recent incidents documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker:

  • On February 14, as Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris attempted to reach out to witnesses of the Parkland mass shooting, online trolls began spreading doctored versions of her tweets that made her appear disrespectful to survivors of the shooting.

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