June 4, 2019 – Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of May 27 – June 2:
Yemeni Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist denied US visa
After being denied a US visa, Yemeni journalist Maad al-Zekry missed the May 28 Pulitzer Prize award ceremony in New York, where he was to accept the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Al-Zekry, an award-winning Associated Press correspondent, told Medium the US Embassy in Cairo denied his visa application because Yemen “ranked as a place that has terrorism.” He was also denied a visa in April when he attempted to attend a ceremony in Georgia to receive the McGill Medal for journalistic bravery, despite receiving support from various US institutions. Al-Zekry and two of his colleagues, Nariman el-Mofty and Maggie Michael, were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Yemen Civil War. For more on journalists denied entry to the US, read RSF’s report: “Obtaining US visas: A plight for foreign conflict reporters.”
Police obtained illegal warrant to search journalist’s phone records before raiding home
A search warrant issued before a controversial police raid on journalist Bryan Carmody’s home allegedly illegally and secretly targeted Carmody’s phone records. The warrant, which was revealed on May 28, gave police access to Carmody’s phone records, data and messaging use, and even allowed round-the-clock location tracking of Carmody’s phone. Carmody’s lawyer told the San Francisco Chronicle that the warrant “clearly violated the First Amendment and the California Shield Law,” which protects journalists from revealing the identities of confidential sources. On May 10, San Francisco police used a sledgehammer to enter and raid Carmody’s home, where they detained and handcuffed him on suspicion of involvement in a criminal conspiracy to steal an internal police report.
Pentagon goes one year without a televised press briefing
The Pentagon press secretary hasn’t hosted a televised press briefing since May 31, 2018, a year-long silence that some officials say is enforced by a fear of displeasing President Trump by spurring unpleasant media coverage. The shortage of press briefings mirrors the same trend at the White House, which hasn’t offered a press briefing in over two months. Pentagon officials do answer press questions on and off-camera and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has suggested the Pentagon may restart official press briefings but has yet to schedule one.
Assange not charged for CIA leak
The US Justice Department will not charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for leaking key Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) information known as “Vault 7,” which included a sensitive CIA digital code used for hacking devices. The Justice Department likely dropped these charges because the leaked Vault 7 information is too sensitive to prove in court and because the Justice Department is required to bring any additional charges within 60 days of his first indictment, which prosecutors did in March when they accused Assange of hacking military computers. The 17 counts against Assange in violation of the Espionage Act still stand.
The United States ranks 48th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
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