Led by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom of the Press Foundation, the site will serve as a central repository for data at a time when journalists in the U.S. are facing increased hostility. RSF serves on the steering committee for the site.
In recent months, journalists have been charged with crimes while covering protests in Washington D.C. and North Dakota; stopped at the border and subjected to searches of their electronic devices; and physically assaulted, and in the case of Ben Jacobs, by a congressional candidate. Data collected on the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker shows that 19 journalists have been arrested in the course of their work in 2017 and that at least 10 reporters are currently facing charges. In 2017 at least four journalists have been stopped at the border and 11 have faced physical attacks, according to the tracker. These numbers may increase as we receive new information.
“The United States has some of the strongest legal protections for press freedom in the world and a robust and varied media landscape, but this cannot be taken for granted. Open hostility, threats of leak prosecutions, and arrests have created a precarious situation for journalists,” said Alex Ellerbeck, senior research associate for the U.S. at the Committee to Protect Journalists and chair of the steering committee for the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “A full and honest accounting of challenges to press freedom in this country is sorely needed.”
“RSF is thrilled to be a part of the strong coalition behind the tracker as we notice a deeply worrying downward trend in the country’s press freedom record, as evidenced by its decline in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The U.S. now ranks 43rd out of 180 countries," said Delphine Halgand, RSF’s North America Director. “The tracker is an excellent tool that will provide in-depth information demonstrating this decline.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker collects data based on news reports and tips submitted by journalists, professional organizations, and press freedom organizations. The coalition behind the tracker will use the research in letters, legal briefs, and advocacy campaigns.
“With the Trump administration ramping up its war on journalism, this initiative could not come at a more important time,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “We hope it will be vital to highlighting the threats to press freedom in the U.S. and the important work journalists do to hold the government accountable.”
Freedom of the Press Foundation is leading the day-to-day operations of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, with its senior reporter, Peter Sterne, serving as the managing editor. The Committee to Protect Journalists is providing the initial funding and chairing the steering committee. Along with RSF, the steering committee also includes representatives from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Knight Institute at Columbia University, and Index on Censorship. Please find a full list of partners on the website.
In honor of the launch, read a blog post from RSF’s Delphine Halgand and Margaux Ewen: “As America’s press freedom declines, the world is watching.”