1) On Wednesday, May 24, Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, was physically assaulted by the Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat, Greg Gianforte, at the candidate’s campaign headquarters in Montana. Along with an audio recording taken by Jacobs, a Fox News team witnessed the incident first-hand. Gianforte apparently grew agitated by Jacobs’ questioning of his stance on the Republican healthcare plan and allegedly “body-slammed” him to the ground, breaking his glasses. Gianforte has since been charged with misdemeanor assault but went on to win the election.
2) After signing a bill on Friday, May 26 that reduces the cost to obtain a handgun license, Texas Governor Greg Abbott held up a bullet-riddled target sheet and joked, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.” The governor was visiting a shooting range to celebrate the new bill’s passage.
3) President Trump did not hold a single news conference or briefing during his first official trip abroad to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Brussels and Italy. On Monday, May 22, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a joint statement to discuss the advancement of peace, the threat of Iran, and the friendship between Israel and the US. There was no opportunity for press to ask any questions. On Thursday, the US press pool was barred from President Trump’s arrival at the European Headquarters in Brussels. Live footage of the event was later posted online, and eventually official White House photographers were given access. The lack of press briefings coincided with breaking news that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, became a person of interest in the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. President Trump has been considering decreasing the frequency of on-camera White House press briefings.
"It is appalling that the hostile anti-press rhetoric being used at various levels of the US government has now escalated to physical violence against a journalist who simply asked a question, says Margaux Ewen, RSF North America’s Advocacy and Communications Director. Furthermore, the fact that the Governor of Texas made a joke about shooting reporters just days after a journalist was physically assaulted by a Montana politician is truly alarming, as we continue to see a causal link between hostile remarks and incidents of intimidation and physical force. This new level of violence is completely unacceptable in a country founded on democratic values like a free and independent press.”
The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.
For the latest updates, follow RSF on twitter @RSF_en.
IMAGE CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN / AFP