Twenty-eight Leading Press Organizations Sign an Open Letter to U.S. Law Enforcement To Stop Attacks on Journalists

A meeting at the National Press Club photograph courtesy of Terissa Schor from Washington, DC under CC BY 2.0

“The nation’s leading journalism and press freedom organizations today called on law enforcement, mayors and governors across the country to halt the unprecedented assault against journalists in the field covering the protests for social justice.” National Press Club



On Monday an open letter to law enforcement officials nationwide was signed by twenty-eight press freedom organizations calling on police officers to cease their attacks on journalists providing coverage of the nation’s recent protests.

The signatories include:

PEN America reports that in addition to indiscriminate use by the police of pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas, and riot gear against unarmed civilians at protests, the targeted arrests of and attacks on journalists covering these events marks a potentially devastating departure from the American tradition at a critical national moment.

“These violent attacks against the working press are an affront to our Constitutional values, namely the First Amendment and the protections it provides to the free press,” said PEN America’s Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “By trying to silence journalists, law enforcement officers are seeking apparently to prevent reporters from fulfilling their invaluable mission of informing the public, holding our leaders accountable, and providing vital information to citizens across the country. As an organization whose mission focuses on fostering dialogue across differences and amplifying lesser-heard voices, we at PEN America thank the National Press Club for leading on this timely letter reminding our nation’s police that their duty remains the protection of all law-abiding citizens, including journalists. In order for reporters to effectively bear witness to this movement at a decisive moment for our nation, these assaults must immediately cease.” 

This post is courtesy of the National Press Club and PEN America.


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In Defense of the Fourth Estate, A Landmark First Amendment Lawsuit Against President Trump Will Proceed

Il quarto stato (1901): a march of strikers in Turin, Italy / Public Domain

The term Fourth Estate or fourth power refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognized as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.

The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The equivalent term “fourth power” is somewhat uncommon in English, but it is used in many European languages, including German (Vierte Gewalt), Spanish (Cuarto poder), and French (Quatrième pouvoir), to refer to a government’s separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.



Today a federal court ruled against President Trump in a lawsuit that claims he has used government power to retaliate against media coverage and reporters he dislikes in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the court denied a government motion to dismiss the case and will allow it to go forward on allegations that President Trump has retaliated against the White House press corps and certain holders of security clearances who work as media commentators based on their First Amendment-protected speech.

PEN America, with counsel Protect Democracy, the Yale Law School Media Freedom of Information & Access Clinic, and Davis Wright Tremaine, filed the landmark lawsuit to stop President Trump’s campaign of censorship against the press. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the president’s bid to dismiss the case, allowing it to proceed to the discovery phase.

Susan Nossel courtesy of PEN America Center under  CC BY-SA 4.0 license

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CEO of PEN AMERICA, the plaintiff in the case, issued the following statement:

“It’s hard to think of a moment in American history in which unvarnished, accurate news reporting has mattered more than it does now. This decision is a victory not just for PEN America and our own writers, but also for the journalists and media outlets doing the vital, risky work of keeping us all informed.  But above all, it is a win for all individuals who depend on a free press to dig out the facts and hold leadership accountable without fear of reprisal.  We sued the president because we believe the First Amendment prohibits him from retaliating against speech he dislikes. We are grateful that this essential suit can move forward, vindicating the rights of all those who rely on a free press.”  
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JENNIFER EGAN, PRESIDENT of PEN AMERICA, issued the following statement:“PEN America is profoundly grateful for the court’s timely decision. Though we filed our lawsuit more than a year ago, the Trump administration’s punitive stance toward the press has continued unabated, with corrosive results for truth, fact, our democracy, and—most recently—public health.”

KRISTY PARKER, COUNSEL for PROTECT DEMOCRACY, one of the organizations representing PEN America in the lawsuit, issued the following statement:

“The president can take to Twitter to complain all he wants about media coverage, but he abuses his power and violates the Constitution when he uses his office to punish members of the media. This is not North Korea—we don’t allow our politicians to control what the press says or punish the media for coverage that Dear Leader doesn’t like. Just the opposite—we rely on the media to hold the powerful accountable to the people. It’s important for all Americans that the press can do their jobs freely.”

The lawsuit was filed by Protect Democracy and co-counsel on behalf of PEN America, a leading organization of writers and literary professionals. The lawsuit claims that President Trump has violated the First Amendment rights of PEN America and its members through his threats to use—and actual use of—government power to punish the speech of those he perceives as critics in the media.

The plaintiffs argued that under the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of speech, President Trump can express his own views and criticize journalists and media organizations, but he cannot issue credible threats or deploy government power to retaliate against the media for its coverage. As laid out in the complaint, the president has in at least five situations used or threatened to use the regulatory and enforcement powers of government to punish the speech of journalists. He has:

  • Initiated a government review to raise postal rates to punish the owner of the Washington Post;
  • Directed DOJ enforcement actions against media companies, including CNN’s parent company Time Warner;
  • Interfered with White House press access;
  • Threatened to revoke broadcast licenses; and
  • Revoked the White House press credentials and security clearances of media commentators.

The court granted the government’s motion to dismiss on claims related to the first four situations, finding that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, but allowed the case to go forward on the claims related to press credentials and security clearances. The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment—a ruling that the president’s use of government power to punish the press violates the First Amendment. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could have far-reaching consequences for a president who has made a habit of retaliating against his media critics, and for future presidents who might seek to escalate attacks on the press.

The government had argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and failed to state a legal claim. Today’s ruling held that the plaintiffs can pursue claims for declaratory relief based on allegations of retaliation against the White House press corps and holders of security clearances.

The case will now move into discovery, where plaintiffs will be able to obtain documents from the government to substantiate its claims that President Trump has sought to use the regulatory state to punish media he does not like.

Read more about the case HERE.

*****

This post is courtesy of Wikipedia and PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Itsmission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.



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Suspension of ABC Reporter “Sends the Wrong Message” says PEN America; News Outlets Defend Wright

Journalist David Wright meets Pope Francis en route to South America, July 2015 courtesy of Manitoba321 under   CC BY-SA 4.0 license

David Wright is an Emmy Award-winning Canadian-American broadcast journalist and political activist, a former correspondent for ABC News, and a self-described socialist. His work appears on Nightline, World News Tonight, Good Morning America and 20/20.



ABC News on Wednesday announced it had suspended correspondent David Wright for comments he made that were secretly recorded and disseminated by a right-wing activist group.

“ABC’s decision essentially—and wrongly—suggests that journalists are unable to do their work professionally if they have private opinions, as any individual does. In doing so, it hands a victory to an outfit whose mission is to use underhanded tactics to undermine public faith in the credibility of a free press. Wright was expressing his personal opinions at a bar, and even gave a disclaimer that his comments were separate from his professional work. To punish him for this sends the wrong message to the public and to those who seek to further drive distrust in professional media.”  Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expressions Programs, PEN America.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

H.R. 2054 Has Bipartisan Support and would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets

Woodcut by Tommaso Garzoni depicting a town crier with a trumpet / Public Domain

PEN America says proposed law would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets



A bill that would provide a temporary exemption to antitrust rules for news outlets represents a potentially positive step toward addressing the economic crisis affecting local news outlets throughout the country, PEN America announced this week,  but cautioned that the effectiveness of the bill will hinge on whether small- and mid-sized news outlets are meaningfully represented in any resulting negotiations.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 aims to provide news providers a two-year enxemption from federal antitrust laws in order to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook over how the digital giants can use those outlets’ online content. Enjoying bi-partisan backing and supported by the newspaper trade group the News Media Alliance—which represents almost 2,000 news organizations—the bill is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate.

“Local news is in crisis, something that affects not only the media sector but that deeply impacts access to critical information for millions of Americans,” said Thomas O. Melia, PEN America’s Washington director. “It is heartening to see bipartisan support for legislation responding to this crisis, and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act offers an important opportunity for news outlets to negotiate a more equitable arrangement with the tech giants.”

Since 2005, newspapers have lost more than $35 billion in ad revenue. More than 20 percent of the nation’s newspapers have shuttered within the last twenty years. Numerous journalists, media reform advocates, and analysts—including PEN America—have concluded that local news is in crisis. One of the key drivers of this crisis, PEN America argued in its November 2019 report “Losing the News,” is the fact that news outlets see little of the ad revenue for users who find or read their news articles through Facebook or Google.

“To address the crisis in a meaningful way, negotiations between tech companies and news publishers will have to include independent small and mid-sized outlets, as well as those that specifically serve those communities most affected by the decline of local news ecosystems: communities of color and low-income and rural communities,” said PEN America’s Melia.

“Ultimately, the success of this act will be determined by whether it helps ensure Americans continue to have access to original, local, quality news on critical issues in their lives. We welcome this effort to take a creative approach to the local news crisis and urge that hearings on this legislation be convened as soon as possible to refine the proposal.

“Finally, we note that this act represents only one step towards addressing the local news crisis. For such an urgent and serious problem, more—much more—will be needed. That is why PEN America continues to call for a Congressional commission on the local news crisis, to help craft the solutions that will ensure the future of local American journalism.”

This content is courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

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