News

September 11, 2017

US — #WeeklyAddress September 4 – September 10: Photographer shot in Ohio

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of September 4 – September 10:

Photographer for local newspaper shot by police officer

On Monday, September 4, Andy Grimm, a photographer for local newspaper New Carlisle News in Clark County, Ohio, was shot by deputy police officer Jake Shaw during a traffic stop after the policeman mistook his tripod and camera for weapons. Audio from Shaw’s body camera recorded him saying "Listen, dude, you pulled that out like a gun out of the back of the Jeep." Grimm is expected to make a full recovery, while the incident is under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.


NRA slammed for ad threatening the New York Times

On Tuesday, September 5, Digital Content Next (DCN), a trade group for media companies, criticised the NRA’s inflammatory ad against the New York Times, claiming it would incite violence against journalists. The ad, featuring NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, targeted the Times for their “so-called honest pursuit of truth”, with Loesch saying in the video, “In short: We’re coming for you.” Multiple media outlets saw the video as an attack on the New York Times. DCN’s open letter stated “It is un-American to threaten journalists," and strongly condemned the NRA’s anti-media campaign.


Pentagon limits number of journalists eligible to travel with Secretary of Defense

On Wednesday, September 6, the Pentagon has limited the number of journalists and wire services allowed to travel with Defense Secretary James Mattis on upcoming travels. Only one of the three major wire services will now be allowed to accompany Mattis on his overseas trips, along with one radio pool reporter, one newspaper, and a three-man television pool crew. This is a drastic difference from the normal 12-18 journalists that usually accompany the Defense Secretary. Journalists in the Pentagon press corps are worried this decision is part of a broader effort to limit government transparency during US officials’ travel abroad. Earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was criticised for not traveling with a press pool in overseas trips to Russia and Asia.


Charges dropped against West Virginia reporter arrested for asking a question

West Virginia’s Kanawha County Prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday, September 6, that all charges were dropped against Dan Heyman, a reporter who had persistently questioned Health Secretary Tom Price on proposed health care reform before the US House of Representatives in May. Until Wednesday, Heyman was facing a charge of “willful disruption of governmental processes,” carrying a possible 6 months prison sentence. Heyman told The New York Times “We all need to keep asking the tough questions of elected officials… the intense response to my arrest gives me confidence that people will defend the free press, because they believe in it.”


Suit filed against blog formerly owned by Gawker

On Wednesday, September 6, life coach and therapy group leader Gregory Scherick filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court for libel against Jezebel. Jezebel, a blog formerly associated with Gawker Media, is being sued for an article published on May 10, 2016 that called Scherick’s therapy group a cult and suggested that he was exploiting “creative women”. The lawyer representing Scherick is Charles Harder, a prominent attorney best known for his role in the lawsuit against Gawker Media. Harder was one of the attorneys for pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan during his invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media, which left the media company bankrupt. Jezebel is now partially owned by Gizmodo Media Group, who called this lawsuit “nothing more than another obvious attempt by Charles Harder to intimidate journalists.” Gizmodo Media argues that any lawsuit about articles published before the acquisition should have been filed against Gawker Media.


Defamation lawsuit against Techdirt dismissed

Also on Wednesday, September 6, a defamation lawsuit against the blog Techdirt was dismissed by a US District Court in Massachusetts. Shiva Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur and scientist who has claimed to have invented the email, sued Techdirt for defamation in January when it published an article challenging Ayyadurai’s claim. The District Court ruled that Techdirt’s article was protected speech and that the defamation claim had no merit.


Trump shuns reporters from Camp David during Cabinet meeting

On Saturday, September 9, President Trump held a Cabinet meeting at Camp David, where reporters were barred from asking the President questions or taking photographs. The White House later released selected photographs of the meeting along with a five minute video of the President speaking to his Cabinet at the beginning of the meeting.


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.


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