A demonstrator gestures during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, on November 9, 2019. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)
A demonstrator gestures during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, on November 9, 2019. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Warrantless searches of devices at ports unconstitutional, US court rules

The Torch is a weekly newsletter from the Committee to Protect Journalists that brings you the latest press freedom and journalist safety news from around the world. Subscribe here.

On Tuesday, a U.S. federal court ruled that warrantless searches of digital devices by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are unconstitutional. Last year, CPJ’s report “Nothing to Declare” found that CBP agents’ stop and search powers risked undermining press freedom. Watch our video explainer of how searches of electronic devices at the U.S. border harm press freedom.

In Bolivia, protesters threatened and attacked journalists after President Evo Morales announced his resignation. A camera operator was injured in an explosion while covering a protest in La Paz, and at least four news outlets temporarily ceased broadcasting.

CPJ’s emergencies team released a safety advisory for journalists covering unrest in Hong Kong. In recent months, police and protesters in Hong Kong have attacked journalists covering protests, and last week two journalists were arrested. Check out CPJ’s safety kit for journalists here.

Global press freedom updates

  • In Iraq, Kurdish Asayish security forces detained journalist William Bnyameen Adam after he returned from a two-week assignment in northern Syria. He told CPJ that security forces confiscated his equipment, beat him, and seized his digital devices
  • Iranian court sentences two journalists to jail on propaganda charges
  • Syrian photojournalist Abdul Hameed al-Yousef killed as forces shell southern Idlib
  • CPJ investigated orders by Russia’s internet regulatory agency to block news outlets’ websites and found that new laws and cheap web filters have increased censorship in the country
  • Radio journalist Dindo Generoso shot and killed in the Philippines
  • Attackers burn boat journalist uses to report in Colombia’s remote regions
  • Indian government threatens to cancel journalist Aatish Taseer’s overseas citizenship
  • CPJ has deepened its database of attacks on the press, adding new filtering, visualization, and analysis capabilities. Explore our data here


Last week, CPJ and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), along with a coalition of over 30 media, technology, and nonprofit partners, launched the “Protect Press Freedom” campaign to mobilize the U.S. public to stand up for press freedom and actively protect their right to be informed. Through video, radio, digital, print, and social media, the campaign communicates a simple message: In order to be free, we must be informed.

Learn more about the campaign at protectpressfreedom.org and join the conversation on social with #protectpressfreedom

It’s less than one week until CPJ’s 2019 International Press Freedom Awards, where journalists from Brazil, India, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Pakistan will be honored for their bravery. Deadline for press accreditation is noon today, email [email protected] and learn more about this amazing group of journalists here.

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