October 9, 2018

US - #WeeklyAddress: October 1 - October 7: Reporter arrested for recording high profile Chicago murder trial

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of October 1 - October 7:

Reporter arrested for recording high-profile Chicago murder trial

Freelance journalist Zachary Siegel was arrested and held in contempt of court on October 2 for recording part of the high-profile murder trial concerning former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murdering black teenager Laquan McDonald. The journalist was accused of violating the court’s decorum order, which allowed only a defined media pool to record the trial that could be shared with other journalists, but prohibited individual reporters (like Siegel, who was covering the trial for science journalism magazine Undark) from recording. The judge ordered Siegel held in jail on a $100 bond, which other reporters covering the trial collected for his release. “If the judge’s goal was to intimidate other working journalists, it will not work,” said Undark Editor-in-Chief Tom Zeller, Jr., to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.



President Trump jabs at female reporter; official transcript edits it out

The White House edited President Donald Trump’s insulting remark to ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega in the official transcript of his October 1 press conference before later revising it to reflect his actual comments. When Trump called on Vega for a question during the Rose Garden event, he commented on her perceived “state of shock” for being chosen, which the reporter denied before thanking the president. Trump continued to say, “That’s okay. I know you’re not thinking. You never do.” Despite video evidence, the official White House transcript claimed the president said “thanking,” before later editing it to reflect his actual comments.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has edited incorrect or incomplete White House transcripts. For instance, the official White House transcript of the Trump-Putin summit in July did not include Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about his country’s involvement in the 2016 US presidential election during his joint press conference with President Trump until more than a week after the transcript was published.



California Congressman attacks Fresno Newspaper in mailer to constituents

California Congressman Devin Nunes sent a 38-page magazine, titled The Fresno Bees: The dirty little secrets of the Valley’s propaganda machine, to 100,000 constituents denouncing the publication’s coverage of his time in office since 2003. This mailer represents the congressman’s most recent effort to discredit the newspaper, which notably includes an attack on veteran journalist Lewis Griswold, who has covered Nunes’ political career since the late 1990s. Estimates from an industrial printing service suggest that the cost of printing and distributing the mailer likely exceeded $65,000. Despite these series of attacks, The Bee has refused to retract any of its coverage of Nunes’ career. “So no matter what you tell people, no matter the falsehoods you plant, we’re not going anywhere,” Bee journalist Marek Warszawski wrote in a Wednesday opinion article. “We’re not backing down. Our commitment to our mission, and our readers, is as strong as ever.”



Councilman tells Capital Gazette it ‘will regret’ publishing story on his anti-Islam remarks

Maryland City Councilman John Grasso alleged during an interview with Capital Gazette staff on October 2 that the newspaper, in response to his anti-Islam remarks online, was trying to write a “hit piece” on him and would “regret it” if the article were published. Grasso had shared a series of posts between September 14-26, which included a link titled “Share if you think President Trump should ban Islam in American Schools.” He has since received criticisms from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national advocacy group, and other local council members who are calling for his resignation. The Capital’s Tuesday article concerning this incident also received criticisms from Grasso, who stated, “I’m telling you right now as a promise, you will regret it.” On Twitter, Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell responded: “Anne Arundel Councilman John Grasso told reporter @selenecapgaz and me we might regret it if we published this story. We don't. We won't. You can't intimidate or bully us, John.” Threats like the one Grasso issued on Tuesday are particularly for The Capital Gazette, which was the victim of a shooting on June 28 that left five journalists dead.



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.



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