“This ruling is a critical win for press freedom,” said Margaux Ewen, Director of RSF’s North America bureau. “The Trump administration’s revocation of Mr. Acosta’s press pass was reckless and, as the judge said today, ‘shrouded in mystery,’ and we are relieved that Mr. Acosta can return to work at the White House.”
Federal Judge Timothy A. Kelly made his ruling on November 16 based on CNN’s Fifth Amendment claims alleging the White House revoked Acosta’s press press without providing him adequate notice or an opportunity to respond. The judge rejected the Trump administration’s argument that tweets and statements published by President Donald Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, as well as a CNN statement opposing the revocation of Acosta’s credentials, amounted to adequate due process. During the ruling, Kelly also referred to Sanders’ initial claim that Acosta put his hands on a White House press aide as “likely untrue.”
Kelly emphasized the limited nature of this ruling, and it remains possible the White House could move to revoke Acosta’s credentials again if it provides due process. The outcome of this hearing is the first of several components to CNN’s lawsuit against the Trump administration. Kelly made no judgement on CNN’s First Amendment claims, and has yet to rule on whether it will grant the news network “permanent relief,” which would deem the revocation unconstitutional and protect other reporters from similar retaliation.
Following today’s ruling, CNN released a statement that said, “We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days. Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.” The judge first heard oral arguments from both sides on November 14, a day after CNN filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in Washington, DC, accusing the administration of violating Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights when, after a heated November 7 press briefing, the White House indefinitely suspended Acosta’s White House press pass.
The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.
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