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.

Jamie Dedes:

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Literature Locked Up: First Amendment and the fight for access to books and magazines in our prisons

Photo courtesy of Johannes Jansson/ under CC BY 2.5 dk

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”  James Baldwin

Last month a federal court ruled that the Arizona Department of Corrections was overly broad in restricting certain publications to people in state prisons, and ordered the department to establish clearer rules that are consistent with the First Amendment. The decision stems from a 2015 lawsuit brought by the magazine Prison Legal News, which alleged that state corrections officials were unfairly withholding the magazine from incarcerated subscribers.

“The ruling out of Arizona is a significant step forward for the First Amendment and for our fight for access to literature in sites of incarceration,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “The court was right to recognize that Arizona’s policies towards book access give too much discretion to individual employees, who are then empowered to implement these policies in arbitrary or overly restrictive ways, and to demand narrow definitions for what content is prohibited.”

“PEN America has previously called for more explicit policies that more narrowly define the bounds for rejecting books, and we hope that Arizona’s revised policies will meet this mark,” Benavidez continued. “We need regulations that better enshrine the First Amendment within prison walls, and that recognize the importance of access to literature for our incarcerated population. We believe that this ruling can serve as an example for other jurisdictions to recognize the fundamental right to read where it remains threatened in American prisons.”

In September 2019, PEN America released Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban. a research report on the state of the right to read in American prisons. The report concluded that “book restrictions in American prisons are often arbitrary, overbroad, opaque, subject to little meaningful review, and overly dismissive of incarcerated people’s right to access literature behind bars.”

Among the recommendations, PEN America concluded that state and federal officials should develop more explicit policies governing book restrictions; implement periodic review of their restriction policies; and ensure that prison officials strongly consider the literary, educational, and rehabilitative merit of any publication before determining its admissibility.

This post is courtesy of PEN America.


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

Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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