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As President Trump attacks four Democratic Representatives of color with ever starker language of racism and nativism, news organizations are critiqued for their struggle with whether to directly label his words as racist and how to report on his message without amplifying it. Nonprofit local news consortium, part of an effort to bolster local news coverage in New Jersey, faces uncertainty as funding from the state government stalls. (See PEN America’s open letter of support for the initiative.) Senior Customs and Border Patrol official circulates inflammatory opinion piece directly attacking the ProPublica reporter who led the investigation into a closed Facebook group in which CBP employees posted racist and violent content. Tennessee governor faces backlash for proclamation honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general, slave trader, and onetime leader of the Ku Klux Klan. -Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager

The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


Addressing Bigotry from the White House
“To tell people in this country of immigrants that they should ‘go back’ (in this case to places they are not, in fact, from) is a particularly familiar, childish, and bigoted taunt that has been used by know-nothings throughout American history. … If we ignore him, we normalize his reckless behavior.”

Just Say ‘Racist’
“[Trump] told a group of left-wing Democratic Congresswomen to ‘go back’ to ‘the totally broken and crime infested places they came from.’ Of the lawmakers Trump appeared to be targeting, all but one—Ilhan Omar—were born in America. … Trump’s attack wasn’t racially charged; it was just racist, by any useful definition of the term. Why didn’t our media say so?”

$1m in State Funding for Local News Consortium Is up in the Air
The launch of an innovative, state-funded media consortium whose goal it is to improve local news coverage in New Jersey is stalled for the second straight year due to budgeting hiccups in Trenton.

Border Patrol Official Circulates Article That Deems Our Reporting on Secret Facebook Group a Threat
A senior Border Patrol official, who directs a key intelligence-gathering center, on Thursday circulated an inflammatory opinion article that blasted ProPublica’s reporting on a secret Facebook group for current and former agents and described the news organization as a threat to the agency and its members.

Tennessee Governor Faces Backlash for Honoring Confederate General and KKK Leader
Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, is facing public backlash after he declared Saturday “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day,” continuing a decades-old tradition honoring the Confederate general, slave trader, and onetime leader of the Ku Klux Klan.


Family of Loujain Al-Hathloul Fight to Free Imprisoned Saudi Activist *PEN Case List: Learn More
It’s now been over a year since Hathloul was imprisoned, and her family is still fighting for her release, campaigning abroad to try to increase pressure on the Saudi government and highlight the plight of Hathloul and others like her.

Political Prisoner Oleg Sentsov Marks His 43rd Birthday *PEN Case List: Learn More
Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, sentenced to 20 years in a Russian prison, turned 43 on July 13. This is his sixth birthday behind the bars. On May 11, 2014, Sentsov was detained in Crimea by the officers of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. He was called the organizer of a sabotage and terrorist group.

‘We’re Almost Extinct’: China’s Investigative Journalists Are Silenced under Xi
China’s investigative reporters once provided rare voices of accountability and criticism in a society tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party. But under Xi Jinping, such journalists have all but disappeared, as authorities have harassed and imprisoned reporters and as news outlets have cut back on in-depth reporting.

‘Police Officers Demanded to See My Books’: Elif Shafak on Turkey’s War on Free-Speech
“I received a distressed call from my Turkish publisher the same week, informing me that civilian police officers had come to the office demanding to see a number of books. Not only my fiction but titles by Duygu Asena, a leading feminist who died in 2006. The books were taken to the prosecutor’s office to be investigated.”

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