Trump, U.S. governors must stand up for press freedom, CPJ and other groups say

The media is entitled to cover protests without obstruction or fear

New York, June 11, 2020–The Committee to Protect Journalists today joined dozens of groups from throughout the United States and around the world in calling on U.S. officials in every level of government to speak out forcefully in defense of press freedom, after law enforcement in dozens of cities attacked journalists covering protests that have swept the country over the past two weeks.

The United States must ensure media can work unobstructed and without fear of injury or reprisal, the media and press freedom organizations urged in a series of letters sent to President Trump and governors of each state.

Since protests demanding an end to police brutality and calling for social justice broke out on May 26, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has received reports of at least 400 incidents across the country, including assaults and arrests of journalists. CPJ swiftly condemned the attacks and has called for accountability and justice at all levels.

The letter to President Trump from 72 press freedom and industry groups from around the world stressed the global impact of press freedom violations that take place in the U.S.

“The United States’ history of protecting free expression and defending and protecting the rights of journalists is much admired beyond U.S. borders,” the groups wrote. “When the U.S. backslides it sends a green light to authoritarian-leaning leaders around the world to restrict the press and the free flow of information.”

The letter also urged Trump to send local leaders an unambiguous message that they have a responsibility to fully investigate attacks on the press.

The letter to governors from 59 national media and press freedom groups called on the state executives to “speak out unambiguously about the importance of a free press and take specific measures to ensure that journalists working in your states can carry out their vital work without fear of reprisal or injury.” Those steps include ensuring that police forces responding to the protests understand the role of the media; are treating journalists fairly; and are not targeting them with violence, kettling, or crowd-dispersal tactics.

Last week, CPJ’s board of directors issued an open letter to U.S. governors, mayors, and police chiefs demanding that they take immediate action to stop the alarming number of assaults on journalists who are lawfully covering protests in their communities.

Read the letter to Trump here and the letter to governors here.