March 5, 2019 – Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of February 25 – March 3:
White House bans four journalists from covering Trump-Kim dinner in Hanoi
The White House banned four members of the US press pool from covering a February 27 dinner in Hanoi, Vietnam, between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters were barred from the dinner due to what Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called “sensitivities over shouted questions,” that had been asked during a Trump-Kim photo-op earlier that day. In the end, only one print reporter of the 13-member press pool was permitted to attend the dinner. The White House Correspondents’ Association released a statement regarding the access denial, saying it “strenuously objects to the capricious decision to exclude some journalists from a press encounter.” The American media covering President Trump’s visit had encountered obstacles since arriving in Hanoi. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry tweeted on February 26 that the US media workplace would be relocated from the Melia Hotel, where Kim was also staying. “The North Koreans were clearly not happy the American press was set up at the Melia Hotel in Hanoi,” CNN’s Jim Acosta tweeted. “As we had heard earlier, Kim Jong Un is staying at the hotel. He just arrived per @Kevinliptakcnn and @AlliemalCNN.”
Univision journalist crew detained in Venezuela, equipment confiscated
Jorge Ramos, a Univision anchor and the most well-known Spanish-language journalist based in the United States, was briefly detained along with five colleagues inside the Venezuelan presidential palace on February 25. Ramos, who had been conducting a television interview with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, said he showed Maduro a video he had taken of young men rummaging through and eating out of a garbage truck in the country’s capital. According to Ramos, Maduro then walked out of the 17-minute interview and summoned his information minister, who told Ramos the interview was not authorized. For more on the incident, read the joint statement RSF signed, “Venezuela: Joint statement on detention of Univision journalists at the Miraflores Palace.” This is not the first time Ramos has been mistreated while attempting to do his job; in August 2015, now-President Donald Trump rejected Ramos from a campaign press conference in Iowa after the journalist attempted to ask a question.
California Attorney General threatens reporters who obtained list of criminal cops
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra reportedly threatened legal action against reporters who obtained a previously unpublished list of California police officers convicted of breaking the law, according to an East Bay Times article published February 26. Journalists Jason Paladino and Robert Lewis, who work with the University of California at Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program, obtained the list through a public records request filed with California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Becerra claimed the list had been “inadvertently disclosed,” according to a letter sent to the journalists on January 29, and requested that the list be “immediately permanently” destroyed, insisting the information is confidential under state law. Paladino and Lewis have denied these demands and have found legal support from the First Amendment Coalition, a free speech advocacy nonprofit. The list the POST compiled contains the names of nearly 12,000 police officers convicted over the past decade. John Temple, director of the Investigative Reporting Program, told the Times that the reporters have chosen not to publish the entire list until they could spend more time reporting to avoid any misidentifications. At a March 1 press conference, Becerra addressed the issue saying, “I’m all for investigative journalism, especially in this day and age, in this country, but you can’t play fast and loose with private, confidential information.”
The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.