CJR IS PARTNERING WITH the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation to launch a website that documents press freedom incidents around the country.
The site, US Press Freedom Tracker, is nonpartisan and captures incidents involving journalists such as arrests, border stops, equipment searches and seizures, leak prosecutions, physical attacks or threats, and subpoenas. US Press Freedom Tracker, which launches today, gathers those data points from news stories and tips, and it’s free for all to use—journalists and news consumers alike.
With the Trump administration ramping up its war on journalism, this initiative could not come at a more important time.
The tracker is launching at a critical time for press freedom. The last year has seen a Republican congressional candidate assault a Guardian journalist, a Wall Street Journal reporter detained at an airport for refusing to surrender her phones, and six journalists charged with felony rioting following their arrests at Trump’s inaugural parade. (Charges have been dropped against all but one.) And, of course, Trump and his toadies blast the press as an institution nearly every day.
“With the Trump administration ramping up its war on journalism, this initiative could not come at a more important time,” Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in a statement. “We hope it will be vital to highlighting the threats to press freedom in the US and the important work journalists do to hold the government accountable.”
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is running the tracker’s day-to-day operations, with Peter Sterne, its senior reporter, serving as managing editor. The Committee to Protect Journalists provided the initial funding.
CJR is among 20-some journalism and press freedom organizations supporting the tracker. Other supporters include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, Free Press, Investigative Reporters & Editors, Poynter, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Those organizations have pledged to use the tracker’s data in their work—to write letters, prepare legal briefs, and develop advocacy campaigns. CJR plans to use the tracker in its reporting and to highlight an “incident of the week” in its newsletter.
“As the anti-press rhetoric intensifies in Washington, threats against the media are rising around the country,” says CJR Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope. “This project is a critical step in cataloguing the problem and giving reporters, policy makers and the public a resource for understanding the threat.”
Jonathan Peters is CJR’s press freedom correspondent. He is a media law professor at the University of Georgia, with posts in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Law. Peters has blogged on free expression for the Harvard Law & Policy Review, and he has written for Esquire, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, Slate, The Nation, Wired, and PBS. Follow him on Twitter @jonathanwpeters.