A U.S. Department of Homeland Security officer checks passports for at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2020. The DHS has proposed new restrictions on foreign journalists' visas. (Reuters/Teresa Barbieri)

CPJ, RCFP and other organizations urge DHS to drop proposed visa changes for foreign journalists in U.S.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and 36 other media organizations yesterday submitted joint comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging the department to drop or revise proposed changes to I visas, which are granted to members of the foreign media working in the United States.

Proposed DHS changes that would shorten the length of I visas from five years to 240 days and allow DHS to review the journalist’s coverage as a factor in the renewal process could allow reporters to be excluded from the United States in retaliation for their reporting.

The comments, authored by legal experts at RCFP, state that the proposed restrictions would create a chilling effect for reporters working in the U.S. 

The comments suggested that, at a minimum, DHS should adopt a way to prevent journalists’ status in the U.S. from being contingent on their reporting or their compliance with potential DHS orders to reveal their sources.

The proposed visa restrictions could also have significant ramifications for U.S. journalists reporting abroad, should foreign governments choose to retaliate, the comments stated.

CPJ has reported on the harmful press freedom effects of visa restrictions on foreign reporters, particularly in China, where journalists have suffered collateral damage in the ongoing feud between Beijing and the White House.

The full joint comments to DHS can be seen here.