Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Please Support Common Dreams This #GivingTuesday

Our staff has grown and our coverage of the climate emergency, COVID-19, and rising authoritarianism has intensified over the last two years. But, our expenses during the pandemic have gone up as well. This has been one of the toughest years we’ve ever faced. Donations are down. Traffic to the website from Google and Facebook have inexplicably fallen off a cliff. If we have any chance of meeting our fundraising targets for the year, we need this to be the best #GivingTuesday ever. Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers ever make a donation. We're counting on you. Can you make that gift today to help Common Dreams end the year strong?

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

A journalist is seen bleeding after police started firing tear gas and rubber bullets near the 5th police precinct following a demonstration to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis.

A journalist is seen bleeding after police started firing tear gas and rubber bullets near the 5th police precinct following a demonstration to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis. (Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

Report Details 'Staggering' Number of Attacks on US Journalists, Press Freedoms in 2020

"This report shows an unprecedented press freedom crisis engulfing the United States."

Andrea Germanos

A new report draws a "devastating" picture of press freedoms in the United States, finding that 2020 has seen a 1200% increase in the number of journalists arrested compared to 2019.

According to Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), there were 117 arrests or detainments of journalists—a figure that stood at just 9 the year before. The organization used data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker—a project of FPF and the Committee to Protect Journalists—and found 1000 press freedom violations including physical attacks and border stops. "We know of no police officer criminally charged for illegally arresting a journalist," the report adds.

"This report shows an unprecedented press freedom crisis engulfing the United States," FPF executive director Trevor Timm said in a statement.

The "most startling statistics," says the report, occurred in the week after the May 25 police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis. That time frame included 71 journalists arrested while covering protests.

"So many of the journalists arrested in the United States in 2020 were reporting on protests that it was perhaps inevitable reporters would be caught up in the same police techniques typically used to break up demonstrations," the report states, and points to the tactic of so-called kettling. "Kettling in particular shows up in nearly two dozen of the arrests and detentions that the U.S Press Freedom Tracker has documented across the country."

"Time and again," says the report, "police disregarded press freedom rights when their kettled crowds included journalists."

The report also draws attention to press violations that occurred in Portland, and "the dangers [that] intensified when, on President Donald Trump's orders, federal agents were deployed in the city."

"The Department of Homeland Security tapped protesters' phones and established 'intelligence reports' on journalists who published leaked documents about the agency's operations," the report adds.

Among the journalists whose harrowing tales are recounted in the report is Grace Morgan.

An independent journalist, Morgan was covering the arrest of a protester in Portland when federal agents slammed her to the ground and sprayed her in the eyes with mace.

Beyond abuses associated with journalists covering the national social justice uprising, "the electoral loss by a president who had spent much of his administration vilifying the press sparked one of the biggest spikes in press freedom violations since the first month of the George Floyd protests in May and June," says the report.

Throughout the year, the report says that many of the arrests were accompanied by police violence. In fact, according to the tracker data, 26% of the arrests included police deploying "unnecessary use of force," which may include knocking journalists to the ground, pepper-spraying them, or whacking them in the gut with a baton.

Still other journalists faced police violence such as being hit with projectile while reporting before being arrested.

The report further notes that, while many saw their charges dropped, at least 16 journalists—including 10 freelancers—are still facing legal "long-term legal trouble."

While the tally of journalists arrested dwarfs those of previous years, it may not be exhaustive; the report points out that the organization is still sorting through a dozen other possible violations that occurred this year.

"Journalists should not have to worry about being arrested for doing their job," added Timm, "yet across the country police have disregarded their rights on a staggering scale."

"We hope this report will spur local, state, and federal officials to act," he said.

Calling the findings "devastating," Kirstin McCudden, managing editor of the U.S.Press Freedom Tracker, writes in the report's foreword, "The courage and commitment of these journalists, arrested or detained for exercising rights promised to them in the Constitution, is anything but a statistic."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

WHO, South Africa Urge Nations to Lift 'Naive' Omicron Travel Bans

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."

Brett Wilkins ·


EU Joins Rights Group in Condemning Israel's 'Day of Destruction' of Palestinian Homes

"Demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·


Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo