Briefs & Comments

  • February 2, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed an amicus brief in support of 11 plaintiffs, several of whom are journalists, who are challenging government searches of smartphones and other electronic devices at the U.S. border without a warrant.  The amicus briefs argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person's speech and associations, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers' First Amendment rights.  The amicus brief highlights the particular concerns of journalists, whose electronic devices contain sensitive information about their newsgathering activities that, if revealed to the government, could chill their relationships with sources and ability to report freely.

  • January 19, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations submitted an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of a former journalist who alleges a city and its police chief retaliated against him after he wrote a column critical of the police department. On appeal, the police chief asserted that the district court was wrong to deny him qualified immunity. The amicus brief argues that First Amendment retaliation claims are critical to journalists, who are at risk of retaliation by government officials because their reporting may be critical of government. The brief also argues that the district court correctly determined that the police chief is not entitled to qualified immunity because a campaign of harassment in retaliation for speech violates the Constitution, and the right to be free from such retaliatory harassment is clearly established.

  • December 21, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to express its concern regarding statements made during the closing arguments in the prosecution of Alexei Wood.  Wood live-streamed the January 20, 2017 Inauguration Day protest in Washington, DC, and was arrested and charged with various crimes stemming from his presence at the protest.  He was acquitted on December 21, 2017.  During closing arguments, the Assistant United States Attorney argued that Wood could not be an "up-and-coming journalist" because of Wood's familiarity with certain terms like "black bloc" and "kettle" and commented on Wood's "fake press badge."  The Reporters Committee's letter emphasized that newsgatherers must be familiar with the subject matter they cover, including its terminology, and that reporters are not required to have a press pass to cover a protest on public streets.

  • December 18, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the presiding judge in State v. Tisdale, regarding the sentencing of a Georgia journalist, Nydia Tisdale, who was convicted on a misdemeanor obstruction charge related to her arrest while filming a political rally in 2014. The letter, submitted for the sentencing hearing, argued that Tisdale should be given leniency because she was engaged in newsgathering at the time of the arrest and because she performs a valuable service to the public.

  • August 14, 2017

    This case asks the U.S. Supreme Court to answer whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cellphone records revealing the location and movements of a cellphone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment. RCFP and 19 media organizations joined as amici in support of petitioner, arguing that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to get cellphone location information. The brief explained the historic connection between the First and Fourth Amendments, and argued that long-term tracking of cellphone location information could reveal First Amendment-protected activities and threaten the confidentiality of the newsgathering process. 

  • June 13, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote to the Department of Justice's Inspector General to express our concern about United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies and practices that affect journalists at the border. The Office of the Inspector General had earlier announced that it is looking into border inspection procedures.

  • May 16, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a coalition of national media organizations objecting to the arrest of reporter Dan Heyman in the West Virginia capitol, for shouting questions to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and HHS Secretary Tom Price during a visit.

  • April 10, 2017

    Petitioners seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court of dismissal of their civil rights suit concerning arrests of protesters during an Occupy Wall Street protest, arguing that they have a right to notice before being arrested for participation in a lawful protest. Attorneys for David Wright Tremaine wrote a brief on our behalf arguing that a lack of notice before mass arrests also interferes with reporters’ rights while covering newsworthy events.

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee, joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, wrote to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., in support of Aaron Cantú, the one remaining journalist still facing charges related to the protests on Inauguration Day. The letter questions why charges are still pending and why a journalist faces indictment when it appears he was covering the protests at the time of his arrest.

  • November 1, 2016

    The Reporters Committee, joined by 31 news organizations, filed a brief in the Third Circuit in support of two individuals who had been arrested for photographing police officers during arrests. The district court in Philadelphia had held that individuals have no First Amendment right to record officers in public unless they do so to criticize the police. The amicus brief argued that photos and videos provided by citizens and bystandards are valuable to the news media and the public, and taking such images should be encouraged.

  • October 3, 2016

    Plaintiffs Ray Askins and Christian Ramirez sued the Department of Homeland Security to challenge policies of Customs and Border Protection that ban photography at United States ports of entry without advanced permission from CBP. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs, arguing that policies that restrict the news media's ability to photograph or record activity at the US border impinge upon the press's constitutionally protected rights to gather news and report on matters of public concern. We argued that photography and recording are essential elements of reporting on matters of public concern, including those that arise at the border; that strong public policy rationales underlie a First Amendment right to photograph public officials such as CBP officials; and that national security concerns do not provide a compelling interest that justifies the CBP photography policies.

  • September 30, 2016

    A Hungarian journalist at abcug.hu, an online news portal, was denied access to two Hungarian refugee camps. A report by the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights described these conditions as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. His requests were denied based on the privacy interests of the refugees. The Reporters Committee joined a coalition that intervened in the case, arguing that European Union law allowed journalists to report on important public controversies like this.

  • July 14, 2016

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news organizations wrote to the Cleveland mayor and police chief, objecting to the city's policy banning gas masks during protests. We argued that journalists, who would not be engaged in the activity that prompts the use of tear gas, need to cover these newsworthy events, and that police should allow credentialed journalists to carry them near the protests and parades.

  • June 27, 2016

    The Animal Legal Defense Fund and other organizations challenged Idaho Code Ann. § 18-7042, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The law criminalizes audio and video recording at agriculture facilities. The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho struck down the law. The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of Plaintiffs-Appellees. The brief argues that journalists and whistleblowers who serve as their sources have improved food safety and agriculture facility conditions through the years by exposing violations. Idaho's "ag-gag" statue infringes upon the First Amendment rights of those seeking to disseminate information to the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.

  • June 7, 2016

    Two animal protection organizations and a woman arrested while documenting events at an agricultural site from a public road have challenged Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The statute criminalizes recording images and sounds of agricultural production facilities without the facility owner's express consent. The Reporters Committee, joined by 17 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Amici explain that journalists and other organizations have a long history of improving food safety by exposing violations in agriculture productions. Utah's "ag-gag" statute interferes with the First Amendment rights of those continuing to inform the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.