Today, the Radio Television Digital News Association and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force joined a coalition of more than 100 organizations in a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging it to cease any targeting of journalists and others based on their First Amendment-protected speech and associational activities.
The coalition demanded in a letter that DHS address alarming reports of surveillance activity by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that jeopardizes First Amendment rights and access to legal counsel and may violate the Privacy Act of 1974.
As we point out in the letter, ICE documented and disseminated lists of “Anti-Trump” protests in New York City. In addition, CBP allegedly targeted and created dossiers on activists, lawyers, and journalists working with and reporting on asylum seekers. First-hand accounts revealed a pattern of harassment including extended detentions and interrogations, electronic device searches at ports of entry, and denial of re-entry to Mexico.
“The actions of the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies cited in our letter don’t just impede on the work of journalists and others. More important, they harm the public because it is being deprived of the reporting these journalists are attempting to do, and the vital work of the others targeted by our own government for surveillance and other apparently illegal monitoring,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director.
“Any time a journalist is encumbered in the course of performing his or her constitutionally-protected duty to gather and disseminate information, their viewers, listeners and readers become victims because they are not receiving factual information regarding what their own government is doing in their name,” Shelley added.
The coalition demanded that DHS cease impermissible targeting, monitoring, and harassment of activists, journalists, and lawyers at the border, and disclose the policies, guidelines, and training materials that govern these activities.
We are pleased that Congress is actively investigating both incidents, and that the DHS Investigator General has been tasked with reviewing CBP’s conduct. We join their efforts to ensure that our government agencies are held accountable for their actions.
RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to broadcast and digital journalism. Founded as a grassroots organization in 1946, RTDNA’s mission is to promote and protect responsible journalism. RTDNA defends the First Amendment rights of electronic journalists throughout the country, honors outstanding work in the profession through the Edward R. Murrow Awards and provides members with training to encourage ethical standards, newsroom leadership and industry innovation.
About the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force
RTDNA’s Voice of the First Amendment Task Force defends against threats to the First Amendment and news media access and helps the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats against press freedom in America. Reach out to the task force by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.