July 16, 2019

US – #WeeklyAddress: July 8 – July 14: Trump Social Media Summit invitees verbally spar with reporters

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of July 8 - July 14:

Trump excludes, targets social media and press at unconventional summit

During President Donald Trump’s Social Media Summit on July 11, many unsubstantiated and misleading accusations of social media companies’ anti-conservative bias were made and the diatribe against the “mainstream media” continued. For more on this, read RSF’s publication: “Trump excludes, targets social media and press at unconventional summit.”

Mississippi politician refuses female reporter ride-along

Robert Foster, a candidate for Mississippi governor, refused to allow Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell to follow him on the campaign trail because she is a woman, the reporter revealed in an article on July 9. Foster invoked the “Billy Graham” rule, the male Christian Evangelist practice of avoiding spending any time alone with a woman who is not their wife. Campbell reported that Foster’s campaign “believed the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair.” A gender discrimination expert has since said that, should Foster become governor, following this rule could put him in violation of “several different laws” if applied to his future employees. The Billy Graham rule has recently gained attention after falling into obscurity since it was revealed that Vice President Mike Pence announced in 2002 that he would not dine alone with women or attend events that serve alcohol without his wife.



CIA pushes for dangerous expansion of undercover agent identification ban

A coalition of civil society organizations signed a letter Tuesday to oppose a dangerous act supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that would criminalize the disclosure of identities of former undercover agents. The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) currently prohibits journalists from publishing the names of former undercover agents who worked overseas until five years after they’ve left the service to protect them, but new CIA-backed expansions in the House and Senate would make these identities unpublishable indefinitely, regardless of the location in which the agents served. If passed, the adjustments to the IIPA would greatly restrict reporters’ ability to report on CIA and CIA-adjacent activities and hold criminally liable reporters who violate the act.



Massachusetts bill could strike police body cam footage from the record

A Massachusetts legislative committee heard a proposal on July 11 for a bill that could exempt any police body camera footage from public disclosure and public record, even in cases of public interest like investigations of police misconduct. Though the bill’s champions argue the bill would protect the identities of victims and witnesses to crimes, critics say it would undermine the core purpose of police body cameras: improving transparency and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Body cameras have become staples of law enforcement agencies in recent years as police departments try to improve accountability in response to widespread protest against police brutality.



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


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