In recent years, hundreds of journalists who have been covering peaceful protests, public demonstrations, and acts of civil unrest in the United States have been arrested, physically assaulted, or otherwise forcibly deterred from doing their work by law enforcement personnel. The frequency and intensity of these incidents are alarming, threatening press freedom and undermining fundamental rights at the heart of American democracy.
As the Knight Institute’s 2022-2023 senior visiting fellow, Joel Simon set out to investigate this serious threat to press freedom. He presents his findings in this report documenting the deliberate and aggressive targeting of journalists by police during demonstrations, examining the historical context from the Civil Rights era to the present, and exploring the challenges of determining who is a journalist in an information environment transformed by technology.
The Knight Institute also produced a short documentary about these issues, entitled Flashpoint: Protests, Police, and the Press, to be released in fall 2023.