The newly launched U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, backed by two dozen media organizations, plans to draw attention to incidents where journalists have been suppressed or even attacked for doing their jobs.
With journalists facing a particularly tough climate in the age of “fake news,” a new nonpartisan effort hopes to bring to light the challenges of free press.
This week, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation have teamed with more than 20 other media organizations to track threats to press freedom big and small through a new initiative called the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
“When journalists are obstructed, so is the public’s right to be informed and hold power to account. The United States has some of the strongest legal free speech protections in the world and serves as a beacon for press freedom in a world where journalists are routinely censored, attacked, or imprisoned for their work,” the tracker’s website explains.
Reports of journalists being targeted while doing their jobs have peppered the news cycle this year. Among them: Reporters who were arrested during Inauguration Day protests, a Guardian correspondent who was assaulted by a Montana congressional candidate, and journalists covering the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota who were arrested and charged with crimes.
So far this year, the initiative reports 19 arrests, 12 equipment searches and seizures, 11 physical attacks, and four border stops. And beyond the incidents affecting individual reporters or news teams, the climate has suffered from toxic discourse targeted at journalists, in many cases coming from the president’s own Twitter feed.
Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, emphasized that the website, which will have staff to support day-to-day reporting, comes at an important time for the overall discourse.
“With the Trump administration ramping up its war on journalism, this initiative could not come at a more important time,” Timm said in a statement to the Columbia Journalism Review, a supporter of the endeavor. “We hope it will be vital to highlighting the threats to press freedom in the U.S. and the important work journalists do to hold the government accountable.”
Timm’s foundation is staffing the website, while the Committee to Protect Journalists will help fund the effort. Beyond the groups already mentioned, a wide variety of associations and media groups, including Free Press, the American Society of News Editors, Poynter, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Newseum, and Reporters Without Borders, are offering their formal support to the initiative.
“The work would not be possible without their contributions,” the Freedom Tracker website stated.