Index urges President Trump to speak out forcefully for press freedom

President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500via emailDear President Trump,We are writing to you as journalists, press freedom organizations, and industry groups to express our deep dismay at the recent violence perpetrated against journalists in the United States as they have sought to report on mass protests across the country. On behalf of the 72 groups listed below, we urge you to speak out forcefully against these attacks and in support of the rights of journalists to report freely, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The United States’ history of protecting free expression and defending and protecting the rights of journalists is much admired beyond U.S. borders. This is born out of a recognition that journalists serve as independent monitors of social and political developments, and are essential to democracy, transparency, and accountability.

Attacks on journalists in the U.S. threaten to undermine this commitment. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has received reports of at least 320 violations of press freedom across the country since protests demanding an end to police brutality and calling for social justice broke out on May 26. It is vital that state and local government officials take steps to ensure such violations never happen again, and that the perpetrators are held to account.

We call on you to send a clear and unambiguous message across the country and around the world about the importance of the press freedom and work of the press. Local leaders need to hear unambiguously from you that they have a responsibility to fully investigate these attacks, protect journalists, and ensure that they can work unobstructed and without fear of injury or reprisal.

Press freedom in the United States is critical to people around the world. Thousands of foreign correspondents are based in Washington D.C. and throughout the U.S., where they are tasked with telling the story of America to their publics back home. The ability of journalists to work freely in the U.S. creates a more enlightened global citizenry.

What happens in the United States also has repercussions for journalists around the world, including American correspondents. When the U.S. backslides it sends a green light to authoritarian-leaning leaders around the world to restrict the press and the free flow of information.

Authoritarian regimes in China, Iran, and Turkey have already opportunistically spoken out about the heavy-handed police tactics used here, using the crackdown on the press in this country to legitimize their own repression of independent journalism.

Instead of condemning journalists and the media, we urge you to commend and celebrate them as the embodiment of the First Amendment, which is the envy of so many countries around the world.


Acclaim Nigeria Magazine (ANM)

Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC)

Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Indonesia

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ)


Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (Abraji)

Association for International Broadcasting

Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication

Bytes 4 All

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)

Canadian Media Lawyers’ Association

Cartoonist Rights Network International (CRNI)

Centre for Law and Democracy

Centre for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP)

Committee to Protect Journalists

Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE)

DW Akademie

Free Media Movement – Sri Lanka

Free Press Unlimited

Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI)

Fundación Gabo (Gabriel García Márquez Foundation)

Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP)

Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)

Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)

Global Voices

Hong Kong Journalists Association

Independent Journalism Center

Independent Journalism Center (IJC)

Index on Censorship

Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey (IFoX)

INSI – international News Safety Institute

Institute for Regional Media and Information

Instituto Prensa y Sociedad Venezuela

International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)

International Federation of Journalists

International Media Development Advisers (IMDA)

International Media Support (IMS)

International Press Institute

International Women’s Media Foundation


Media Focus International (MFI)

Media Foundation for West Africa

Media Institute Southern Africa – Zimbabwe

Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

Media Watch

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)

Metamorphosis Foundation


Norwegian PEN

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

PEN America

PEN International

Press Union of Liberia

Project Syndicate

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Reporters Without Borders

Rory Peck Trust

Rural Media Network Pakistan

Samir Kassir Foundation – SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom


Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

Somali Media Women Association (SOMWA).

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)

The Center for Independent Journalism, Romania

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)


Vice President Michael R. Pence

Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary Ambassador

Kelly Craft, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

INDEX Q&A: It’s not easy being Green for US third party candidate

Nov 5, 2012 (Index) The United States two-party system leaves little room for third party candidates in the presidential race. Green Party nominee Jill Stein has faced numerous obstacles throughout her run — including being arrested outside of one of the presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Index’s Sara Yasin spoke to the candidate about free speech in America, and the challenges she’s faced as a third party candidate in the Presidential race

Index: What are the biggest barriers faced by alternative candidates in the Presidential race?

Jill Stein: Its almost as if third parties have been outlawed. There is not a specific law, but they have just made it incredibly difficult and complicated to get on the ballot, to be heard, it is as if [third parties] have been virtually outlawed.

To start with we don’t have ballot status, the big parties are “grandfathered” in. Other parties have to collect anywhere from ten to twenty to thirty to forty times as many signatures to get on the ballot. We spend 80 per cent of the campaign jumping through hoops in order to get on the ballot. It really makes it almost impossible to run.

It takes money in this country. You have to buy your way onto TV. The press will not cover third parties, challengers, alternatives. The press is consolidated into the hands of a few corporate media conglomerates, and they’re not interested and they also don’t have the time because their staff has been cut. So they’re basically, you know, covering the horse race. Not looking at new voices, new choices, the kinds of things that the American public is really clamouring for, and also not looking not the issues. And so you get this really dumbed down coverage that excludes third party candidates.

And then you have the debates, which are a mockery of democracy. Which are really sham debates held and organised by the Commission on the Presidential Debates, which is a private corporation led by Democratic and Republican parties. They sound like a public interest organisation; they’re not. They’re simply a front group to censor the debate. And to fool the American voter into thinking that is the only choice that Americans have. And in fact, by locking out third party candidates, we’ve effectively locked out voters.

According to a study in USA Today a couple weeks ago, roughly one out of every two eligible voters was predicted to be staying home in this election. That is an incredible indictment of the candidates.

Index: What are your thoughts on how multinational companies are using lobbying, lawsuits and advertisements to chill free speech around environmental issues?

This is certainly being challenged. Fossil fuels are an example. The fossil fuel industry has bought itself scientists — pseudo scientists I must say — and think tanks to churn out climate denial. That whole area of climate denial has been sufficiently disproven now, to the point where they don’t rear their ugly head anymore. Now there’s just climate silence, which Obama and Romney really share. Romney is not denying the reality of climate change, he’s just not acting on it. Unfortunately, Obama has seized that agenda as well in competing for money.

I think we are seeing enormous pushback against this, in the climate movement, in the healthy food movement, in the effort to pass the referendum in California (37) that would require the labeling of food which the GMO industry is deathly afraid of, because people are rightly skeptical. So for them, free speech, informed consumers, informed voters, are anthema, it’s deadly for them. They require the supression of democracy and the suppression of free speech. And the buying of the political parties is all about silencing voices like our campaign. which stands up on all of these issues.

There are huge social movements on the ground now for sustainable, healthy organic agriculture. For really concerted climate action, for green energy, for public transportation. These are thriving movements right now. Our campaign represents the political voice of those movements. There is also a strong movement now to amend the constitution to stop these abuses, to stop this suppression of free speech.

Index: Do you think that the two-party system allows for topics viewed as inconvenient to both Republicans and Democrats to remain untouched?

JS: That’s their agreement really. And the commission on presidential debates makes it so very clear. They have a written agreement that was leaked a couple of weeks ago. That agreement includes very carefully selected moderators who agree about what kinds of questions they will ask and they will go through…until they find the candidate for a moderator that will agree basically not to rock the boat. The moderators have to agree to not only exclude third parties, but not to participate in any other format with candidates whose issues can’t be controlled. This has everything to do with why they make the agreements that they do and why they will only talk to each other, because they’re both bought and paid for by the same industries responsible for the parties.

When I got arrested protesting the censorship of the debate, my running mate and I were both tightly handcuffed with these painful plastic restraints, and taken to a secret, dark site. Run by some combination of secret service, and police, and homeland security. Who knows who it really belongs to, but it was supposed to be top secret and no one was supposed to know and we were then handcuffed to metal chairs and sat there for almost eight hours. And there were sixteen cops watching the two of us, and we were in a facility decked out for 100 people to be arrested, but it was only the two of us and one other person brought in towards the end of the evening who was actually a Bradley Manning supporter who had been arrested just for taking photographs of someone who was photographing the protesters.

Index: What does freedom of expression mean to you?

JS: It means having a democracy, having a political system that actually allows the voices of everyday people to be heard. Not just, you know, the economic elite which has bought out our establishment political parties. So free expression, for me, is the life blood of a political system. I was not a political animal until rather late in life. I was shocked to learn we don’t have a political system based on free expression. We have a political system based on campaign contributions and the biggest spender, and they buy out the policies that they want, so to me, that is where free expression goes. And if we don’t have it we don’t have politics based on free expression —- it’s not just our health that is being thrown under the bus, it’s our economy, it is our climate, it is our environment. We don’t have a future if we don’t have free expression. If we don’t get our first amendment and free speech back, and that means liberating it from money.

Sara Yasin is an editorial assistant at Index on Censorship. She tweets at @missyasin