(Washington, D.C.) — PEN America and the Committee to Protect Journalists this week led a coalition of 56 press freedom organizations and experts in sending letters to every governor across the U.S. and the mayor of Washington D.C. calling on state leaders to affirm their commitments to press freedom and to hold law enforcement accountable for recent actions against journalists covering protests. According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, as of June 10 there have been at least 405 violations of press freedom during the nation’s protests responding to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, including at least 86 physical attacks and 58 arrests.

“Reporters should never be targeted or arrested for doing their job,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. free expression programs at PEN America. “We’ve seen hundreds of instances over the last several weeks of reporters, photographers, and citizen journalists being attacked, jailed, or otherwise harassed for trying to report on recent demonstrations, even when their status as members of the press is abundantly clear. Despite these threats, journalists have provided courageous and vital coverage of the protests. At a time when the public deserves to know the truth of what is happening in their city and around the country, we need a free press at the forefront of protests to tell that story and to hold government and law enforcement to account. We call on governors to ensure the safety of journalists and commit to protecting freedom of the press.” 

Among the coalition’s requests, PEN America and its partners urge state leaders to publicly affirm the right of journalists and citizens to record police in public places as they carry out their official duties; to exclude the media from curfews; and to provide greater transparency from state officials regarding threats or attacks on journalists throughout the state. 

PEN America has also catalogued an increase in local legislative efforts meant to limit the ability of citizens to exercise their right to protest. As detailed in PEN America’s recent report Arresting Dissent: Legislative Restrictions on the Right to Protest, state officials from across the country have proposed legislation that ultimately hinder citizens from protesting in general. According to the study, nearly a third of states have introduced legislation that either hinders or punishes protest. PEN America has also examined assaults on reporters covering the Ferguson protests with the 2014 report Press Freedom Under Fire.