Journos arrested, searched, assaulted: Welcome to 2017 US

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The stats evoke an emerging nation, with 19 journalists arrested at work and ten this facing charges this year.

But this is the US in 2017, where more than 20 organisations with an interest in press freedom - including the News Media Alliance - have launched the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker website, dedicated to documenting press freedom abuses across the country.

Led by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom of the Press Foundation, the site will serve as a central repository for data at a time when journalists in the US are facing increased hostility.

The group says recent months have seen journalists charged with crimes while covering protests in Washington and North Dakota, stopped at the border and had their devices searched, and physically assaulted, in one case by a congressional candidate.

Data collected on the US Press Freedom Tracker shows that 19 journalists have been arrested in the course of their work in 2017 and that at least ten reporters are currently facing charges. In 2017 at least four journalists have been stopped at the border and 11 have faced physical attacks. Numbers may increase as new information is received.

"The US has some of the strongest legal protections for press freedom in the world and a robust and varied media landscape, but this cannot be taken for granted," says Alex Ellerbeck, senior research associate for the U.S. at the Committee to Protect Journalists and chair of the steering committee for the US Press Freedom Tracker.

"Open hostility, threats of leak prosecutions, and arrests have created a precarious situation for journalists. A full and honest accounting of challenges to press freedom in this country is sorely needed."

The site collects data based on news reports and tips submitted by journalists, professional organisations, and press freedom organisations. The coalition behind the tracker will use the research in letters, legal briefs, and advocacy campaigns.

"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, says. "We hope it will be vital to highlighting the threats to press freedom in the U.S. and the important work journalists do to hold the government accountable."

Freedom of the Press Foundation is leading the day-to-day operations of the US Press Freedom Tracker, with senior reporter Peter Sterne serving as managing editor. The Committee to Protect Journalists is providing the initial funding and chairing the steering committee. The steering committee also includes representatives from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Knight Institute at Columbia University, Reporters Without Borders, and Index on Censorship.

Partners are American Society of News Editors, Columbia Journalism Review, Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Free Press, Global Editors Network, Index on Censorship, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Media Law Resource Center, MediaShift, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Press Club, National Press Photographers Association, News Media Alliance, NewsGuild-CWA, Newseum, Online News Association, PEN America, Poynter, Regional Reporters Association, Radio Television Digital News Association and Foundation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, Society of Environmental Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, and The Media Consortium.

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