The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker
On June 4 in Portland, Oregon, Alex-Jon Earl, a student news editor working for the Portland State Vanguard, was pepper-sprayed while covering a protest and counter-protest.
“Things got a little heated,” Earl said. After counter-protesters broke off to march away, Earl followed other reporters and was in turn followed by ACLU and National Lawyers Guild observers. As Earl fell behind to catch some footage, he received a frantic message from a few hundred yards away that one of his fellow reporters was being detained. He ran to the scene and saw “a few dozen people being kettled by police,” including Anna Williams, one of his contributing writers. Williams was held and her license was photographed prior to her release.
Last month, The Freedom of the Press Foundation introduced a website to count press freedom violations. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker brings together 30 press freedom groups to create a centralized repository for research to help inform advocacy, journalism and legal action.
In 2017, there have been 20 arrests of US journalists, 12 searches and seizures of equipment, 16 alleged physical attacks on US journalists, and 4 border stops of US journalists.
“We at RTDNA are proud to be a founding participant of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. It is the archive of record of attacks on press freedom in America in the current divisive political and ideological environment,” Dan Shelley, incoming Executive Director of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), said.
“In a time when the important work of journalists is constantly under attack, especially by those in positions of power within the current White House administration, it’s essential for us to document and examine the challenges reporters face,” Sarah Nichols, President of the Journalism Education Association (JEA), tweeted. “The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is an important and necessary initiative to protect the work journalists do and an excellent resource in the classroom for discussion about press freedom with data and evidence to shape meaningful dialogue.”
In May, Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte grabbed reporter Ben Jacobs and knocked him to the ground, said Fox News correspondent Alicia Acuna. Acuna said the violence “was so out of context for where we were. We weren’t covering a protest. We weren’t covering something where you knew at any moment that something could happen. We weren’t girded for it.”
In a portion of audio from Jacobs, published in The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shouting, “I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!” After winning the election, Gianforte apologized.