PEN America says the revocation of Brian Karem’s press pass is yet another unconstitutional act furthering the president’s ongoing scheme of censorship and retaliation.
This statement was originally published on pen.org on 26 August 2019.
PEN America today filed a brief in federal court calling on the Trump administration to immediately restore reporter and PEN America Member Brian Karem’s press credentials. In an amicus filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, PEN America says the revocation of Karem’s press pass is yet another unconstitutional act furthering the president’s ongoing scheme of censorship and retaliation. Last year, PEN America filed its own lawsuit in federal court accusing the president of using the powers of his office to unconstitutionally punish journalists.
“There President Trump goes again, using the prerogatives of government to silence and punish journalists who irritate the White House with their reporting,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “The First Amendment prohibits the misuse of government power to exact retaliation against a free press. Revoking Karem’s credentials is just a salvo in the president’s campaign to silence criticism, investigations, any coverage that paints him in a negative light. The federal courts must step in to vindicate the First Amendment and affirm that it does not allow the means of government to be used for retribution against the press.”
In today’s amicus brief, PEN America argues that Karem’s case is part of a string of attempts to silence a free press. Since PEN America filed its own lawsuit last fall, President Trump has arbitrarily altered the standards for credentialing journalists, threatened to imprison reporters asking about the Mueller report, and has lodged threats against Amazon in response to critical coverage in the Washington Post. While the White House has argued that Karem violated “norms ensuring decorum and order,” PEN America writes that the revocation of his press pass was linked to his critical questioning of President Trump earlier this summer.
“The retaliatory suspension of Mr. Karem’s press pass is not aimed solely at Mr. Karem,” reads the PEN America legal brief. “The President is once again making an example of someone – this time, Mr. Karem – in order to send a message to would-be critics: cross me and pay the price. That is precisely the sort of government censorship the First Amendment was intended to prevent.”
“When the President uses the powers of his office to threaten and retaliate against journalists, he violates the First Amendment,” said Kristy Parker, counsel at Protect Democracy, one of the organizations representing PEN America. “What the White House did by revoking Brian Karem’s press pass to punish him for coverage they don’t like is part of an ongoing scheme by this President to chill and censor press criticism. The courts must act to stop this attack on the right to dissent and to hold the President to his oath of office, which requires him to defend press freedom, not attack it.”