U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker?

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a nonpartisan news website and database, provides reliable and contextualized information on the number of press freedom violations in the United States — from journalists facing charges to reporters assaulted or stopped at the U.S. border and asked to hand over their electronics. As a centralized repository for research, the data we gather informs advocacy, journalism and legal action.

The groups involved in this site came together to launch the Tracker in 2017 because we realized that in the midst of a tense climate for press freedom, there was no central repository for shared data. There was no single place to find the number of journalists arrested in a given year or the number of leak prosecutions. This site set out to change that, and, in doing so, serve as a resource. Read more on our About page.

Who is involved in the site?

Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, in partnership with other press freedom organizations, founded the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in 2017.

Freedom of the Press Foundation is editorial lead and manages the day-to-day operations of the site. The Tracker is maintained by a team of FPF journalists who report and publish on the site, web and infrastructure designers and engineers who keep the site running and updated and a development team that raises funding.

CPJ provides major funding to the project and chairs the Tracker’s advisory board that also includes representatives from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship.

Find our team of journalists, contact information and a full list of partners on our About page.

What is the process for documenting and verifying cases on the Tracker?

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker receives tips directly from journalists, individuals and a wide network of partner organizations about press freedom violations in the U.S.

Our journalists follow Freedom of the Press Foundation's editorial guidelines and make every attempt to contact those directly involved with the press freedom violation for inclusion in the article. Only incidents that can be verified by first-person accounts or cross-referenced by multiple news sources will be included in the database.

Why doesn't the site include data from before 2017?

The Tracker was launched in 2017. We believe that data collected before we established a real-time tracking system and methodology is likely to be less comprehensive, would not meet our rigorous research standards and would likely underestimate the number of incidents before 2017. Therefore, we made the decision when we launched to only count cases starting on Jan. 1. 2017. The only incidents documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker dated prior to that date are instances where journalists were still facing arrest charges as of the Tracker’s founding.

What’s in the database and how do I use it?

Incidents are organized into 11 categories, and each category home page outlines basic parameters for inclusion. Incidents may be cross-listed under multiple categories (e.g., if a journalist is shot with a crowd-control munition that damages their camera, it will be documented under both the Assault and Equipment Damage categories). Find original analysis from staff and partners in our Blog section.

In addition to searching for journalists or outlets by name, the data can be explored using the filters for date, location, type of incident or using tags on the articles, which include “protest,” “robbery,” “killed” and “Espionage Act,” among others. The Tracker has documented details of the incidents in metadata specific to each category — for example, the metadata search functions allow you to retrieve all cases where a journalist who was arrested is still facing charges or incidents that are now the subject of litigation filed by the affected journalist. Filter all incidents here.

For assistance with running searches or for verification of numbers, feel free to contact us at [email protected].

Who does the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker count as a journalist?

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker adopts a functional definition of who is a journalist. It doesn’t matter whether the individual has a press pass or went to journalism school, whether they work for The New York Times or work for themselves. What matters is whether the person was performing an act of journalism. The Tracker will count journalists whose rights to gather and disseminate information were violated in the course of their work or as a result of their work.

A journalist who attends a protest in order to protest publicly, rather than to document the protest, and is arrested or attacked in that capacity will not be counted on the site. While we recognize the importance and the rights of the private citizen who snaps a photo or video of an arrest, this site will only cover individuals who self-identify as journalists and have some track record of journalistic work.

Why don't you collect comprehensive data on broader threats to press freedom, like abusive civil suits and online threats and harassment?

The Tracker is focused on collecting quantitative data on 11 of the most common types of press freedom violations, based on news reports and tips submitted by journalists, professional organizations, individuals and press freedom organizations. There are many other serious press freedom issues we would like to systematically document, such as online harassment, abusive lawsuits and denials of public records requests in violation of the law. Unfortunately, the combination of sheer number of potential cases and the countless judgment calls we would have to make along the way means it would be impossible for our small team to accurately capture them. With issues like these, the Tracker will cover major or emblematic cases in our Other Incident category, but we do not have the capacity to quantitatively track every case happening around the country.

Who funds this project, and how can I donate to it?

In 2017, the Tracker was seeded with a $50,000 grant from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which came to CPJ as part of a settlement agreement with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte after the then-candidate seriously assaulted Jacobs at a campaign stop. CPJ has provided major funding to the Tracker each year since. Other funders that have supported the Tracker through grants to Freedom of the Press Foundation include Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Yelp Foundation, Ford Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, James B. McClatchy Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and others. Individual small dollar donations are also critical for the Tracker’s success. Donate directly to the Tracker through the Freedom of the Press Foundation.