U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Who’s assaulting journalists in 2023?

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Published On
September 29, 2023

A snapshot of press freedom violations as documented by the Tracker so far this year.

Earlier this week, I attended a panel discussion around “Covering Democracy: Protests, Police, and the Press,” a report focusing, in part, on the interactions between police and journalists during the social justice and Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

That year, journalists were assaulted — and arrested — by law enforcement in unprecedented numbers. Here at the Tracker, we documented more than 630 assaults; 80% at the hands of law enforcement. And law enforcement’s role in press freedom aggressions deserves scrutiny: “Police must do far more to ensure that officers respect and protect press freedom at protests, and they must hold accountable officers who fall short in this duty,” as the report says.

Assaults of journalists, 2020

The number of attacks this year may be nowhere near the distorted scale of 2020. But assaults on journalists are always notable — even when the aggressor is not law enforcement. So far in 2023, for instance, at least 25 journalists have been assaulted. In 80% of those assaults, the assailant has been a private individual.

Four of those took place in Chicago in under one month’s time.

On Aug. 8, an ABC7 videographer attending a press conference on Chicago’s West Side was robbed and two phones from inside his vehicle stolen. On Aug. 28, a Univision reporter and a cameraperson were robbed at gunpoint and a TV station camera stolen while the crew was preparing to file a report from the city’s North Side about, ironically, robberies in the area. On Sept. 6, another Univision reporter was assaulted by an unidentified man during a live shoot. The man approached the reporter, grabbed her, tried to grab her phone and said: “You know I could kill you.”

Florida and New York have each also seen several assaults of reporters and photographers by private individuals, too.

Assaults of journalists so far in 2023

In the news

Before the national Society of Professional Journalists conference kicked off this week in Las Vegas, I sat down with SPJ International Committee co-Chair Dan Kubiske to talk about threats to press freedom in the United States and why tracking is necessary. Watch it here.