For months, CPJ’s Emergencies team has been issuing safety advice for journalists covering the U.S. election and election-related protests. When on January 6 pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, we immediately published a statement urging all people to respect the work of the press. The next day, we called on U.S. authorities to thoroughly investigate attacks on journalists and hold the perpetrators to account. “Journalists and news crews covering these events, which are of paramount public interest, must be able to do so freely and safely, with the support and protection of law enforcement,” our executive director, Joel Simon, said.
During the riot, journalists, including outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico, were harassed, threatened, and attacked, and some had their equipment broken. (In one case, a journalist photographed a noose that was fashioned out of a camera cord and hung from a tree.) CPJ spoke to journalists and highlighted short interviews with them in a feature we published the next day. One told CPJ she was hit with rubber bullets and that three different people threatened to shoot her that day. Another described being briefly detained by police.
In the lead-up to and during the presidential inauguration, CPJ monitored social media and news reports and continued to distribute safety information across all of our channels, alert to the possibility of further violence.
Despite the transition in Washington—and Twitter’s banning of Donald Trump, who it says incited violence on the platform—threats to journalists persist. For years, Trump’s rhetoric has served to villainize, demean, and discredit the media. In a short feature published in January, CPJ’s U.S. researcher Katherine Jacobsen examined how and why hostility against the press in the U.S. is unlikely to diminish any time soon.
“Donald Trump made anti-media rhetoric a staple during his time in office,” Jacobsen said. “While distrust in the media certainly predated his presidency, Trump framed the press as an ‘enemy of the people’ and stoked a deep hatred of the media among his supporters. We expect these anti-press sentiments will linger, even with the change in administrations.”