News

September 18, 2017 - Updated on September 20, 2017

US — #WeeklyAddress September 11 – September 17: The White House calls for ESPN reporter’s firing

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of September 11 – September 17:

Journalists detained during weekend of protests in St. Louis

On Sunday, September 17, Mike Tobin, a senior correspondent for Fox News, and Mike Faulk, a journalist with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, were both detained after police rounded up protesters. Protests lasted three days after police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black motorist. Tobin had been covering the protests when he and his crew were briefly detained. Faulk was in jail for 12 hours before he was released and is now facing charges of “failing to disperse.” Tobin and Faulk were just two of the 120 people arrested or detained by St. Louis police on Sunday after demonstrations were deemed an “unlawful assembly” by the police.



White House calls for ESPN reporter to be fired after critical tweets against Trump

On Monday, September 11, ESPN host Jemele Hill tweeted “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself [with] other white supremacists,” which led to backlash from the White House. During the daily White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Hill’s tweets “a fire-able offense,” insinuating that she should be fired for speaking out against Trump. President Trump followed by demanding an apology via Twitter for her remarks. Hill apologized for airing her private beliefs on a public forum associated with ESPN. While ESPN has publicly accepted her apology, reports have come out that accuse ESPN of trying to temporarily replace Hill with another co-host. This was reportedly thwarted by her co-workers. Despite these reports, Hill continued to host Sportscenter. Press Secretary Sanders now faces an ethics complaint filed by the Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump super PAC (political action committee), for her remarks. The incident is reminiscent of a similar case occuring in December 2016, when former Politico journalist Julia Ioffe was fired for making a crude anti-Trump joke on Twitter.




NBC reporter releases book on covering Trump campaign

On Tuesday, September 12, NBC journalist Katy Tur released Unbelievable, a memoir detailing her experience covering the Trump campaign. In her memoir, Tur describes Trump as hostile to journalists, particularly Tur, often singling her out during rallies with the patronizing nickname “little Katy.” The release of the memoir coincides with President Trump’s tweet: “Fascinating to watch people writing books and major articles about me and yet they know nothing about me & have zero access. #FAKE NEWS! “


Reporters denied press credentials in retaliation for opinion piece

On Monday, September 11, reporters from the Detroit Free Press were denied credentials to cover a controversial Kid Rock concert at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. This decision was made as a response to an opinion piece published in the Detroit Free Press, which criticized the city’s decision to “open the stadium with the controversial artist,” Kid Rock’s publicist responded to the request by saying:


"Jeff Taylor [a regional editor for the paper] approved it and it was f***ed up…to be published without doing any fact checking on what Kid Rock has done for the city of Detroit? We don't condone bad behavior. We won't reward bad behavior."


Kid Rock later posted on his Facebook another attack on the Detroit Free Press, claiming their articles were “unfounded attacks” and railing on the “fake news.” The Detroit Free Press stated that they purchase all their tickets; their only motivation for requesting press credentials was to bring equipment, such as laptops and cameras, into the stadium.


Former Trump aide sues Yahoo and Huffington Post for Defamation and “Acts of Terrorism”

On Thursday, September 14, Carter Page filed a defamation lawsuit in U.S District Court of Southern New York against Oath, the parent company for Yahoo News and the Huffington Post, for the publication of an article allegedly linking the former Trump advisor to Russian officials listed in the infamous “Trump dossier.” The lawsuit states that Yahoo was aware that “portions of the article were untrue or misrepresented” and chose to publish the article. Page also claimed the Huffington Post published an “extensive series of defamatory articles” against him and the Trump campaign. Page claims that media companies have engaged in “acts of terrorism.”


Sputnik investigated by FBI for allegations of propaganda

On Monday, September 11, reports were released that Sputnik, a Russian-owned news company, was under investigation by the FBI for failing to register as a foreign agent working on behalf of the Kremlin. Andrew Feinberg, a former Sputnik correspondent, revealed that he was questioned by FBI agents for details surrounding Sputnik’s operation, including whether editorial decisions were made by the Russian government. Sputnik denied the claims that they were a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, restating their status as a news organization.


Chicago police union orders local newspaper to cease and desist

On Monday, September 11, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) sent a letter to the Sun Times, ordering them to stop contacting officers directly and to direct all requests to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The letter further mentioned that officers were advised to contact authorities if any future attempts to contact officers were made. The Sun Times published the letter, along with a response defending their practice as a “tenet of journalism.” The Sun Times stressed that without unfiltered access to police officers and their opinions, it would be difficult to inform the public of the activities of the CPD.


The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.


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