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Free Press Wants Reporters Without Border Hassles

Free Press on Friday (Oct. 11) delivered a petition to DOJ asking it to end harassment of journalists, in particular at U.S. borders.

It pointed to the six-hour detention of WNYC On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman last month. She is Muslim. It also pointed to the detainment of documentary filmmaker Laura Poltras

Free Press said that the petition bore more than 75,000 signatures on a request that the government insure journalists' and others' "freedom to travel without fear of unwarranted interference."

"The United States faces a mounting press freedom crisis," said Josh Stearns, Free Press journalism and public media campaign director. "Journalists must be able to report freely wherever the story takes them. It's unconscionable that American journalists are afraid to return home for fear of their own safety and the security of their work."

On Thursday (Oct. 10), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), sent a letter to the Attorney General also expressing concerns about harassment, or potential harassment, of journalists at U.S. borders.

The letter was prompted by Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for The Guardian who reported on NSA data collection. Grayson asked to meet with him in Washington and, according to Grayson, Greenwald was reluctant to comply, fearing detention.

The letter is reprinted below:

Dear Mr. Holder:

I write to you today, along with tens of thousands of Free Press members, to call on you to protect freedom of the press and our freedom to travel without fear of unwarranted interference. This week the Committee to Protect Journalists released a groundbreaking report on the Obama administration's troubled relationship with the press. The report shows that while the Department of Justice has taken some steps toward protecting the newsgathering process, there is still much work to be done.

Today we are delivering 77,996 petition signatures calling on you and the Obama administration to end the harassment and intimidation of journalists.

We're particularly concerned about recent actions by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that have raised serious questions about press freedom and individual rights at U.S. borders.

Last month, CBP detained WNYC producer Sarah Abdurrahman and her friends and family for six hours at Niagara Falls. CBP has detained and searched documentary filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras more than 40 times while she's tried to enter the U.S. And both Poitras and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, U.S. citizens who have led the reporting on recent NSA revelations, worry that their safety and security would be compromised if they returned to the U.S.

As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, you must guarantee that the United States government will protect press freedom at all times and in all places.

U.S. journalists who have exercised their First Amendment rights around the world should be welcomed home, not harassed and detained. As it did with its internal guidelines, the Department of Justice should move swiftly to clarify the rights of journalists and U.S. residents at our nation's borders.