Writers organization and free speech advocacy group PEN America has filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking "to stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes."
In a public letter explaining the suit, PEN president Jennifer Egan and CEO Suzanne Nossel write that the Trump administration's actions, including calls for individual journalists to be fired, and labeling the media "the enemy of the American people," has created "an environment of hostility toward the media wherein journalists have been subject to death threats, needed bodyguards to cover political rallies, and have faced attacks in their newsrooms. The president has also threatened book publishers and authors who have published critical volumes. While many media outlets are unrelenting in their robust coverage, individual writers may think twice before publishing pieces or commentary that could put them in the White House’s crosshairs."
Egan and Nossel say the suit, filed in conjunction with nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, was written with the help of "leading First Amendment scholars and practitioners in private practice and academia," and outlines four specific examples in which "the president’s credible threats and actual acts of retaliation violate the First Amendment’s protection of a free press and lend credence to concerns that his intimidation goes beyond just rhetoric."
Those examples include: "using the Department of Justice to attempt to disrupt a merger involving CNN’s parent company Time Warner with AT&T because of CNN coverage that the president found hostile; raising postal rates for Amazon because its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, a newspaper that the president views as critical of him; interfering with White House press access; and threatening to revoke broadcast licenses."
PEN hopes a court will declare these and similar acts by a sitting president to be unlawful, thus protecting journalists and writers from presidential retaliation.