News

May 6, 2019

US – #WeeklyAddress: April 29 – May 7: Man charged in Capital Gazette shooting enters plea of “not criminally responsible”

Mandel NGAN / AFP
Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of April 29 – May 7:

Man charged in Capital Gazette shooting enters plea of “not criminally responsible”

The man accused of killing five staff members at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Maryland last June entered a plea of not criminally responsible, which is Maryland’s version of an insanity plea, on April 29. If a judge or jury finds him guilty, Jarrod Ramos could be committed to a state psychiatric facility instead of a prison. He must undergo a mental health evaluation by the state of Maryland before a judge or jury can reach a verdict in a trial that is set to begin November 4. Ramos faces a total of 23 counts, including five counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and six counts of first-degree assault. Prior to the June 28 shooting, the man had long held a grudge against the Annapolis newspaper. In December, the Capital Gazette staff and families of the victims were honored as TIME magazine’s 2018 person of the year.

 

 

On World Press Freedom Day, President Trump says “dishonest” coverage about him is “not free press”

When asked to comment on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, President Donald Trump disparaged the news media for its “dishonest” and unfair reporting while acknowledging that he has a “very good relationship” with some of the press. During an Oval Office meeting on Friday with Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, President Trump said: “Unfortunately, some of the press does not cover me accurately and in fact, they go out of their way to cover me inaccurately, so I don’t think that’s a free press. I think that’s a dishonest press.” The president did, however, compliment The New York Times—an organization he often attacks—for a story it published on May 2 about an undercover investigator the Federal Bureau of Investigation had sent to meet one of his campaign aides during the 2016 presidential election. The next day, President Trump put out a tweet that described the Times and several other news organizations as “Radical Left Wing Media” that publish “fake news,” referring to their reporting on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

 

 

National campaign raises money to help bring home detained American journalist Austin Tice

Businesses across the country participated in a campaign on May 2 to help bring home Austin Tice, the only American journalist being detained overseas. Seventy-nine restaurants and one beauty salon around the country donated a portion of the revenue they raised that day to the $1 million FBI reward for information leading to the safe return of Tice, an award-winning journalist and former Marine Corps Captain who was detained on August 14, 2012 while covering the unfolding civil war in Syria. RSF, one of the partner organizations that organized the Night Out, published a press release promoting the event, which you can find here. In an interview with NBC News on May 3, parents Marc and Debra Tice told his captors in Syria there will be “great benefit” and that US authorities will feel “sincere appreciation” if their son returns home. They also said there is “no doubt in anyone’s mind” that Austin is alive, mirroring the Trump administration’s position on the journalist’s case. Robert O’Brien, the administration’s special envoy for hostage affairs, said at a National Press Club news conference last November that the administration believes Tice is alive and that White House officials are working with journalists and news organizations to bring him back to the United States.

 

 

Biden campaign staffers block reporters from asking questions

Members of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign staff reportedly blocked journalists from asking the candidate questions at a May 1 rally in Iowa, according to a Twitter thread from freelancer Marcus DiPaola. DiPaola, who was covering the rally, tweeted that staffers physically put themselves between the former vice president and reporters, and that one staffer allegedly took a photo of a reporter during an interaction. In another altercation, a staffer reportedly placed her hands in front of the camera to block the reporter from taking a photo and DiPaola himself was also physically blocked from photographing Biden. This is not the first time that staff working for Biden have attempted to restrict press access. In 2013, Biden’s former press secretary publicly apologized to student journalist Jeremy Barr after he was forced to delete photos of Biden he took at a public event, and two years prior a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel who had been invited to cover a fundraiser for the vice president was held in a closet until Biden arrived because staffers didn’t want him “mingling with the crowd.”

 


The United States ranks 48th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

  

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