Members of the press covering the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, which began January 16, are facing new “security measures” in the form of restrictions that are not typically imposed on Capitol Hill reporters. The full extent of these measures is unclear as the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have not provided a formal document outlining them. However, one rule prohibits reporters from walking through the halls of Congress to ask senators questions. Others prevent reporters from bringing electronic devices into the Senate Chamber, require journalists to pass through a second security screening inside the Senate, and force them into pens and roped-off lines so they cannot access senators as they normally would.
“Until he reverses these arbitrary new rules, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is violating Americans’ First Amendment rights during a monumental moment in US history: the trial for the impeachment of the President of the United States,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “By preventing the press from asking questions on behalf of the American people during this trial, the Senate is escaping public scrutiny and effectively undermining the very foundation of our democracy.”
The Standing Committee of Correspondents, an organization that represents and accredits daily reporters on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to Senate leaders on January 14 protesting the rules. And on January 16, RSF joined 57 other media outlets and journalism organizations in sending a letter to Senate leadership opposing the restrictions.
The United States is ranked 48 th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index .
Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP