November 19, 2018

US - #WeeklyAddress: November 12 - November 18: White House officials say they will suspend Jim Acosta's press pass again

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of November 12 - November 18:

White House officials say they will suspend Jim Acosta’s press pass again

White House officials sent CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta a letter on November 16 saying they will suspend his press pass at the expiration of the temporary restraining order CNN had won in court earlier that day. The temporary restraining order immediately restored press credentials the White House had revoked from Acosta on November 7, though this order is set to expire after 14 days. This ruling, which is the first a federal judge has made in the lawsuit CNN filed against the White House on November 13, was granted in favor of the media organization’s argument that the White House violated Acosta’s Fifth Amendment due process rights. In his daily newsletter, CNN’s Brian Stelter suggested the White House may now be trying to create a “paper trail” that could pass for due process. CNN responded to this in a statement: "The White House is continuing to violate the First and 5th Amendments of the Constitution. These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the President.” Stelter reported that CNN has since filed new papers with the court in order to proceed with their request for a preliminary injunction to prevent future revocation of Acosta’s credentials and protect other reporters from similar retaliation. The judge emphasized on November 16 that he was not yet ruling on First Amendment claims CNN made against the White House. In oral arguments on November 14, White House lawyers argued President Donald Trump can exclude any reporter from the White House, and that there is “no First Amendment right … for journalists to be there.”



President Trump criticizes “fake news” during FOX interview

President Trump lambasted the “fake news media” during an interview with FOX News’ Chris Wallace on November 18, calling reporting on him “fake” and “disgusting.” When Wallace told President Trump he is seen around the world as a “beacon for repression,” the president responded, “The news about me is largely phony,” and that news organizations use many made-up sources in their reporting on him. Later in the interview, President Trump claimed: “Fake reporting is what’s tearing this country apart.” The president’s antagonistic relationship with the press recently escalated when the White House suspended CNN’s Jim Acosta press pass after a November 7 press conference.



FBI tells journalists pipe bomb suspect googled them prior to his arrest

At least two journalists tweeted last week that the FBI notified them Cesar Sayoc, the man who was charged with sending pipe bombs to CNN and several well-known critics of President Donald Trump, had googled their names prior to his arrest. Jenny Jarvie, a Los Angeles Times reporter based in Atlanta, wrote on November 14 that she had received “a visit from two special agents for the FBI who informed [her] that Cesar Sayoc, the suspected pipe bomber, conducted searches of [her] name before he was arrested. Fellow reporters, be vigilant!” A day later, Los Angeles Times reporter Eli Stokols retweeted Jarvie’s statement, writing: “Just got a call from an FBI agent telling me the same.” Authorities have reported since his arrest that Sayoc had created a potential target list with names of more than 100 politicians, journalists, and entertainers.



The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.



For the latest updates, follow RSF on twitter @RSF_en.