RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force today joined more than 20 press freedom organizations in announcing the launch of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a new nonpartisan website dedicated to documenting press freedom abuses across the United States.
A link to the tracker may be found on RTDNA’s website. It will serve as a central repository for data at a time when journalists in the U.S. are facing increased hostility. The tracker may also be found here.
In recent months, journalists have been charged with crimes while covering protests in Washington D.C. and North Dakota; stopped at the border and subjected to searches of their electronic devices; and physically assaulted, in one case by a congressional candidate. Data collected on the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker shows that 19 journalists have been arrested in the course of their work in 2017 and that at least 10 reporters are currently facing charges. In 2017 at least four journalists have been stopped at the border and 11 have faced physical attacks, according to the tracker. These numbers may increase as we receive new information.
“Despite the fact our nation has among the strongest legal protections for journalists and news organizations anywhere the world, this is a daunting time to be a reporter or photojournalist in the U.S. We cannot take for granted our Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to gather and report facts to the public in a responsible way,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director, who spearheads the task force. “It is our hope that by documenting obstruction, acts of aggression, and unfounded arrests targeting journalists we can help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker collects data based on news reports and tips submitted by journalists, professional organizations, and press freedom organizations. The coalition behind the tracker will use the research in letters, legal briefs, and advocacy campaigns.
“As the amount of vicious anti-news media rhetoric from some of our top elected and other public officials grows, this project could not come at a more critical time,” Shelley said. “RTDNA is proud to be part of this endeavor, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which are leading this effort, as well as the nearly two dozen other press freedom organizations that are also participating.”
Freedom of the Press Foundation is leading the day-to-day operations of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, with its senior reporter, Peter Sterne, serving as the managing editor. The Committee to Protect Journalists is providing the initial funding and chairing the steering committee. Please find a full list of partners on the website.
RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. Founded as a grassroots organization in 1946, RTDNA works to protect the rights of electronic journalists throughout the country, promotes ethical standards in the industry, provides members with training and education and honors outstanding work in the profession through the Edward R. Murrow Awards.
About the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force
RTDNA formed the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to bridge the divide between responsible journalists and those who don’t like, or don’t understand, the news media. People wishing to support RTDNA’s efforts may reach out to the task force by emailing email@example.com.