NEFAC Demands White House Return Credential to CNN Reporter, Uphold First Amendment Rights of Press

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

Following a contentious press conference on Wednesday, the Trump Administration revoked the press credential of CNN reporter Jim Acosta — an unprecedented move the New England First Amendment Coalition considers unconstitutional, a threat to all journalists covering the White House and an infringement on the public’s right to know about its government.

“The role of our watchdog press is to ask difficult questions to those in power and to hold government accountable,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “Journalists must not be punished for the questions they ask or have their credentials pulled based solely on the content of their speech. This type of retaliation is an affront to the First Amendment and unbefitting of any democratic institution, especially the White House.”

While the Trump Administration has previously excluded journalists from press briefings — an action that poses constitutional questions in its own right — officials have never revoked a press credential in retaliation for a reporter’s coverage or questioning. This type of punishment is a violation of the First Amendment and a shot across the bow at other reporters who may now reconsider their own questioning in fear of similar consequences. It also sets a dangerous precedent for reporters covering state and local government.

As a recent lawsuit by PEN America against the Trump Administration explains, the White House has many times threatened to revoke the press credentials of reporters critical of the president. Such threats and retaliatory actions are “content- and viewpoint-based restrictions on speech intended to unduly affect the content and tenor of the news and to orchestrate public discussion,” according to the lawsuit which calls these measures unlawful and violative of the First Amendment.

The type of retaliation levied against Acosta and CNN is similarly a violation of the First Amendment and should be considered a threat to all journalists and news organizations. It undermines the free press and infringes on the public’s right to receive information about its government.

NEFAC demands that Acosta’s press credential be reinstated and we urge the President to acknowledge the First Amendment rights of journalists. There is no place in our democracy and no allowance in our constitution for this punishment of the press.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.