Nonpartisan Website Will Track Free Press Violations

August 02, 2017

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University 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.

Led by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom of the Press Foundation, the site will serve as a central repository for data at a time when journalists in the U.S. are facing increased hostility. The Knight Institute serves on the steering committee for the site.

“The Press Freedom Tracker can be a valuable indicator of where the government withholds information or threatens journalists with unconstitutional searches, two issues we are currently litigating,” said Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute. “We are grateful to support this initiative and keen to defend against First Amendment threats it uncovers.”

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.

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.

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. Along with the Knight Institute the steering committee also includes representatives from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and Index on Censorship. Please find a full list of partners on the website.

About the Knight Institute

The Knight First Amendment Institute is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization established by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to defend the freedoms of speech and press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education.