So far this year, 11 journalists have been arrested, 42 were attacked, 21 were subpoenaed and 5 have been killed — in the U.S. Our report earlier this year on the state of press freedom in the U.S. showed that journalists continue to face verbal attacks and harassment, physical assaults, arrest, seizures and searches of their equipment, threats to their credibility and employment, and more — just for doing their jobs.
But amid all this, journalists have proven they will continue to pursue truth, hold the powerful accountable and provide information to the public no matter the obstacles they face. The Washington Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, says it best — journalists aren’t engaged in fighting against a “war on the press;” they are simply at work.
We at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press agree. This year we’ve been busier than ever fighting for the rights of journalists to gather and report the news, defending reporters from being forced to reveal their confidential sources in court, and pushing back against government agencies when they refuse to turn over public information that’s key to keeping you informed.
Here’s some of what we’ve accomplished in 2018:
Legal Work & Advocacy
Our attorneys have pursued impact and needs-based litigation in state and federal courts, and filed a number of important friend-of-the-court briefs in cases affecting the newsgathering and publication rights of journalists.
We’re currently leading 24 legal cases and providing pre-litigation support or advisement in seven others. We have also increased our support for freelance and independent journalists, including independent documentary filmmakers, through our partnerships with FIRE (Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors) — a project of Investigative Reporters and Editors — the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the International Documentary Association to provide pre-publication legal support and services to IDA Enterprise Fund grantees.
In the last year, our attorneys have submitted more than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs — more than half in federal courts — to protect First Amendment and newsgathering rights, which drew support from more than 100 journalism and media organizations. During that same time period, the Reporters Committee also joined 23 amicus briefs drafted by other media law attorneys.
Partnerships & Events
We are working with more organizations than ever, including on projects like the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, to provide our legal expertise and raise awareness of press freedom challenges in the U.S.
The Reporters Committee, Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders were selected as the inaugural partners for The Washington Post press freedom partnership — an initiative that aims to highlight organizations working vigilantly to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists worldwide — which launched in November. (Keep an eye out for our first print ad in January 2019!)
We hosted a delegation from the Inter American Press Association in February of prominent journalists from Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and the U.S. to discuss the state of press freedom in the U.S. The IAPA delegates offered their perspectives and lessons that we outlined in this report. For our work to promote and defend the news media’s right to exercise press freedom without restrictions, IAPA awarded the Reporters Committee with the 2019 Chapultepec Grand Prize.
In partnership with the Democracy Fund, Echelon Insights and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, we released the findings of our “Press Freedom is for the People” report, where we outlined steps for building support for press freedom amid current public attitudes.
We also honored Dean Baquet, Lynn Novick, Robert Siegel, and Nabiha Syed at this year’s Freedom of the Press Awards.
This has been a challenging year for journalists everywhere. As we head into 2019, the Reporters Committee stands at the ready to continue to protect and fight for the First Amendment and press freedom. From of all of us, best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive year ahead.