PEN America has sued Donald Trump, claiming his threats to punish the media as retribution for coverage that he doesn’t like is a violation of the First Amendment.
The writers’ organization agrees the president has every right to criticize the media.
“Our country’s broad protections for free speech allow the president to denigrate the press and even go after individual journalists by name,” wrote PEN America president Jennifer Egan and CEO Suzanne Nossel in an Oct. 16 blog. “However, when President Trump crosses the line and threatens to use his authority to punish the media, or actually does so, it is vital for the courts to step in and affirm that such threats and reprisals are unconstitutional.”
Noting that the president has branded the media as “the enemy of the people,” Egan and Nossel wrote that “an environment of hostility toward the media” has been created where journalists are subject to death threats and need bodyguards to cover Trump’s political rallies.”
While media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and MSNBC have vigorously covered Team Trump, Pen America fears that individual journalists and writers may think twice before publishing reports that might put them in the White House’s crosshairs.
Represented by the nonprofit Protect Democracy and Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, PEN America filed its complaint in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The suit seeks to stop Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets.