June 24, 2019

US – #WeeklyAddress: June 17 – June 23: Attendee at Trump rally arrested for assaulting Orlando Sentinel reporter

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of June 17 – June 23:

Attendee at Trump rally arrested for assaulting Orlando Sentinel reporter 

While reporting on the rally President Donald Trump held in Orlando, Florida marking his bid for presidential re-election, Orlando Sentinel reporter Michael Williams was accosted by a man attending the rally in support of the president. After the man realized Williams was recording him engaged in what appears to be an argument with another individual, he yelled insults at Williams and demanded he stop recording. Finally, he attempted to swat Williams’ phone out of his hand, after which security guards shepherded the man away from the scene. Secret service detained the man and Orlando police arrested him on a charge of misdemeanor battery. President Trump’s rallies have been notoriously treacherous spaces for journalists, where they have been battered, verbally assaulted and even spat on in the course of their reporting.



Trump threatens Time reporter with prison, peddles conspiracy theory about NYT

In a June 17 Oval Office interview, President Trump threatened to imprison a reporter after a Time photographer attempted to take a picture of a letter the president asked to be kept off-the-record. According to a transcript of the interview, President Trump told the reporter they “can go to prison” if they publish photos of the letter, which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un allegedly sent to the president. When the reporter asked for clarification of the threat – “I’m sorry, Mr. President. Were you threatening me with prison time?” – President Trump stood his ground. “I told you you can look at this off-the-record,” he retorted. “That doesn’t mean you take out your camera and start taking pictures of it. O.K.?” The threat is just one in President Trump’s long string of verbal attacks on the press. The president tweeted a conspiracy theory on June 21, accusing New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt of “feeding false stories… to the FBI.” Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake was among those who followed up with an article that same day to debunk the president’s claim. 



President Trump shrugs off Saudi Arabia’s role in Khashoggi murder

In an interview on June 23, President Trump brushed off questions of whether he would let the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) investigate the brutal murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by Saudi operatives. This dismissal comes just days after a June 19 report by U.N. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, which recommended the FBI open a criminal investigation into the killing. During an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” President Trump deflected criticism of his support of Saudi Arabia, saying the murder had already been investigated and comparing the killing to violence in Iran. “Iran's killed many, many people a day… This is a vicious, hostile place. If you're going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran,” he said. The president noted that Saudi Arabia is a valuable trading partner for the United States and that “if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”





US PRESS FREEDOM TRACKER: Two journalists injured on June 12 while covering officer involved shooting protest


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


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