Free Press

We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what’s actually happening in their communities.

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$2.6M

Annual Revenue

83%

Spent On Programs

3%

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Advocacy

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Policy Legislation

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About Free Press

Free Press was co-founded in 2003 by writers, journalists, and professors who were concerned with the state of our media and the amount of big money in politics. Since its inception, Free Press has fought to ensure that media and technology remain free and open for all. Their main areas of work include saving net neutrality, strengthening local journalism and defending press freedom, opposing media consolidation, and ensuring electronic privacy in an ever-changing technological landscape. Their work includes publishing research reports, providing expert analysis to governments and citizens alike, and providing advocacy tools such as petitions and phone scripts for calling representatives.

Why We Chose to Feature This Organization

The First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights protects freedom of the press, while Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be summarized as protecting both the freedom of the press and the right of individuals to receive impartial information.

Democracy cannot exist without a free press, and it is no wonder why authoritarian governments go through great efforts to control the media. Without unbiased information regarding our government’s actions and other current events, we cannot truly participate in a democracy and influence the decisions of our country. Without a free press, we may have never known the horrors that immigrant workers faced in plants and factories or the true origins and involvement of the U.S. government in Vietnam, and Nixon may have never been caught. All human rights depend on the freedom of the press.

It’s been a rough couple of years for journalists. Reputable papers and journalists have had their press credentials threatened while their reputations are tarnished from accusations of being “fake news”. Journalists covering anti-government protests have been detained and charged with misdemeanors and felonies.

During these difficult times, Free Press’ work is more important than ever. In supporting Free Press, we are helping to keep the internet free and open for all, protecting journalists and journalism, and keeping citizens safe from unwarranted surveillance. Without them, our human right to information would be severely at risk.

Policy & Legislature

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Management

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FCC FILING & CORRESPONDENCE: FCC Suppression of Free Speech and Due Process Violations

The Federal Communications Commission is an independent regulatory body that regulates all communications (radio, TV, cable, internet, etc.) within the United States. Its responsibilities include preventing monopolies, educating consumers about various services and regulations, and enforcing and maintaining federal regulations. In order to have a society in which information flows freely, the FCC must adequately fulfill their aforementioned responsibilities. Unfortunately, their quest to end net neutrality and a recent spate of free speech suppression and due process violations show that they are not adequately serving the public. Instead, they are actively seeking to create barriers to information and expression of ideas.

On June 5th, 2017, Free Press and their separate advocacy group Free Press Action Fund co-submitted a letter to the FCC regarding their recent acts of free speech suppression and due process violations. On numerous occasions, the FCC had hindered public participation in their meetings regarding net neutrality. On March 23rd, 2017, two Free Press Action Fund members were not allowed access to an FCC open meeting due to their t-shirts which read “Protect Net Neutrality”. As the Supreme Court has shown time and time again, citizens have the right to express disagreement with government policies so long as they do not behave in a disruptive manner. Wearing a T-shirt free of expletives or offensive imagery is not disruptive and should have been allowed.

On April 20th, 2017, five peaceful protesters were removed from an FCC open meeting by both FCC security and Homeland Security. The protesters immediately complied with the orders. Despite their good behavior and without any formal due process they received a lifetime ban from the FCC and faced a potential ban from other federal buildings. Other examples of the FCC barring public participation in their meeting include removing chairs from the meeting rooms and marking the remaining chairs as “reserved”, banning signs, and manhandling a reporter who asked a question in a public area.

In order to address these issues, Free Press and Free Press Action Fund requested a written apology to their members who were denied entry due to their T-shirts, a written statement detailing the legal basis for the lifetime ban that the protesters received, a policy document detailing how the FCC manages and maintains its list of barred persons, a revision of the lifetime ban, and a transparent statement of the FCC’s policy of protecting free speech of the public and reporters and their peaceful participating in FCC open meetings.

We must hold our government agencies accountable, and one way of doing so is submitting formal letters that summarize clear violations of human rights and a set of concrete requests that would end the violations. Free Press and Free Press Action fund continue to lobby the FCC to uphold our right to free speech and opinions as well as our right to freedom of information. This includes constant work on stopping the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules. It is crucial that we continue to allow public participation within our political process, because without public participation, corporate interests will win over individual rights.

 

Acts of Journalism – Defining Press Freedom in the Digital Age

As technology continues to expand and evolve at a rapid pace, it is imperative that our laws and our rights keep up. More and more everyday citizens are participating in journalism online, whether its posting breaking news to Twitter, live streaming events on Facebook, or writing in depth articles for blogs and other online publications. This new type of journalist has brought some of our biggest news stories to light, including the arrest and fatal shooting of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale station in Oakland, CA., which was filmed by a nineteen-year old onlooker named Karina Vargas.

Protecting the rights of journalists, both traditional and new-age, is a crucial factor in ensuring the right to freedom of opinion and information as declared in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Traditional journalists for major publications are protected by various shield laws that allow for them to refuse to name their sources or disclose other confidential information. These laws must be extended to protect all people who partake in journalism, not just those with press credentials.

Karina Vargas needed these protections. She was harassed and threatened by police because she had exposed them shooting an innocent man in the back. She was a key witness in the case, and her safety should have been of utmost importance. Journalists are often pressured by government officials or powerful corporate interests who will stop at nothing to smear the name of journalists that bring corruption and wrongdoing to light. We must protect our journalists so that the free flow of information can continue and expand.   

In order to expand press freedom to include non-traditional journalists and journalism, Free Press argues that we must not get caught up on the definition of who is a journalist, as narrowing the definition would undermine the notion of an informed public. Instead, we should focus on protecting acts of journalism, as opposed to the journalist themselves.

While industry insiders bicker over the definition of a journalist, increasing case law is proving that the courts are moving on and deciding that no matter the outlet, people who produce content in an attempt to spread information to the public should be protected. This can be seen in the high-profile O’Grady v Superior Court case. Apple issued subpoenas to bloggers in an attempt to learn the source of a leak of information regarding new releases. The online publishers in turn sought judicial protection for their sources. The judge originally sided with Apple, however the case was appealed. In the appellate court, the judge found that there is no distinction between online journalism and traditional print journalism, and that Apple attempting to subpoena the provider was a violation of a shield law (in this case, the U.S. federal Stored Communications Act).

As seen in O’Grady v Superior Court, focusing on the act of journalism instead of who is considered a journalist will help to ensure that our right to information is upheld.

 

Management

Free Press

Kimberly Longey

Chief Operating Officer

Experience and Education
  • Deputy Director at Proteus Fund
  • Master of Science in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University
Compensation
$110,000

Free Press

Matt Wood

Policy Director

Experience and Education
  • Associate Director at Media Access Project
  • Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School
  • Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies from Columbia University
Compensation
$102,000

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