Attacks on writers and journalists as a class are attacks on democracy itself. The Authors Guild serves authors as a nonpartisan advocate for their interests, and that includes defending the free expression of all writers, no matter what their social or political views. Blanket hostility toward the press, propaganda, and the dissemination of false and misleading information are just as much tools of authoritarianism as a state-run board of censors.
Today, the First Amendment protections of free speech and a free press are being tested in new ways and old. Fake news is propagated through social media and speech is suppressed by excluding or intimidating press. As a defender of authors’ rights, it is important that the Authors Guild keep a close watch on any intrusions on the First Amendment rights of authors and journalists.
In that spirit, we present our Freedom of Expression Watchlist, a running tally of recent threats to authors and journalists. We want to make sure we keep a record of these increasing impingements on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. If you come across something you think we should add, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 24, 2017
Fox News host Sean Hannity encouraged his audience to harass on Twitter journalists that report negatively on President Trump and his administration, going so far as to name Jake Tapper and Brian Stelter of CNN, and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, as those he would like to see targeted.
June 13, 2017
In an abrupt change of protocol, journalists covering the Senate amid its drafting of new healthcare legislation were told they could no longer film Senators in the hallways outside their offices without prior permission from that Senator’s office and the Rules Committee. After immediate uproar, the matter was reviewed and the status quo restored.
May 29, 2017
A newspaper office in Lexington, Kentucky had its windows shot out on a Monday morning during working hours.
Source: Lexington Herald Leader
May 24, 2017
Then congressional candidate, and now Republican Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Montana, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter from The Guardian who was trying to ask him a question on the eve of their special election. Gianforte later donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists in a settlement.
May 18, 2017
An award-winning journalist with CQ Roll Call and chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Team was forced to leave the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C., after being backed into a wall by two FCC security guards for trying to ask the agency’s Commissioner a question. Additionally, a former FCC Commissioner that supports tough net neutrality regulations and others were denied seating in vacated chairs in the public section of the same building during a meeting to vote on dismantling net neutrality protections.
Source: Los Angeles Times
May 17, 2017
A CNN reporter was berated at and threatened by a U.S. State Department communications adviser demanding that she reveal her sources or get cut off from future access to State Department information and responses.
Source: TPM Livewire
May 10, 2017
U.S., but not Russian, press was barred from witnessing a meeting between President Trump and Russian officials during controversy over the FBI’s investigation into Russian involvement in the election.
Source: The New York Times
May 9, 2017
A journalist was arrested in West Virginia after posing healthcare questions concerning the health-care bill to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Source: The Atlantic
May 3, 2017
Senate majority spokesperson released a statement expecting “professional conduct and decorum” from all members when a reporter was reportedly slapped by an Alaskan state Senator after asking questions regarding a recent story in the news about the Senator’s bill.
Source: Alaska Dispatch News
April 29, 2017
President Trump skipped the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, instead holding a rally that coincided in time with it in Pennsylvania where he openly mocked and denounced the press.
Source: The New York Times
February 26, 2017
An Egypt-born, French Holocaust historian was detained for 10 hours and nearly deported by U.S. immigration authorities at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Source: The Washington Post
February 25, 2017
President Trump announced his refusal to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner—an event that raises funds for journalism scholarships—which is an event traditionally attended by the President in celebration of the importance of journalism. The last President to miss the dinner was Ronald Reagan, who missed the event while recovering from a recent assassination attempt.
February 24, 2017
After reaffirming his stance that “fake” news is the enemy of the American people, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer barred several news organizations—CNN, The New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, and BuzzFeed—from attending an untelevised White House briefing.
Source: The Washington Post
February 17, 2017
President Trump declared the “fake news media”—including The New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, and CNN—“the enemy of the American People!”
Source: USA Today
February 9, 2017
Bestselling Australian author Mem Fox said she is unlikely to travel back to the U.S. again after being detained and interrogated for nearly two hours by U.S. immigration officials—a situation she felt was fueled by Trump’s recent travel ban.
Source: The Guardian Incident date from Twitter
February 7, 2017
Muhammad Ali’s son was detained under Trump’s travel ban by immigration staff at a Florida airport for nearly two hours and, according to his lawyer, was repeatedly asked where he got his name from and if he was Muslim.
Source: The Independent
January 20, 2017
At least six journalists were arrested in Washington, D.C., while covering President Trump’s inauguration day protests, each charged with felony rioting charges.
Source: The Washington Times
January 11, 2017
President-Elect Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, threatened to expel CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent from a news conference for trying to get a follow-up question after Trump shouted down the correspondent and called the news network fake.
November 29, 2016
President-Elect Trump called for punishing anyone who burns the American flag on Twitter: “there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
October 23, 2016
Donald Trump again suggested changing U.S. libel laws to weaken First Amendment protections of media organizations if elected President. He stated the U.S. should have tougher laws like England’s, where the burden of proof is placed on journalists and authors, rather than the plaintiff.
Source: Business Insider
September 22, 2016
Donald Trump pledged he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (“FADA”)—a bill designed to strip away liability for LGBTQ discrimination—if elected President and the bill passes Congress.
Source: LGBTQ Nation
February 26, 2016
Donald Trump promised to change libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists. This threatens to undermine the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment in its 1964 decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which held that public figures could only succeed on a libel claim against a media organization if the organization published information with knowledge of falsehood and actual malice.
November 16, 2015
Donald Trump stated the United States would have “absolutely no choice” but to close down mosques “where bad things are happening,” during a Fox News interview.
Source: The Hill