NEW YORK—The Department of Homeland Security’s plan to create a searchable database of journalists, “media influencers,” editors, and foreign correspondents is alarming in the context of the Trump Administration’s vitriolic attacks on the media and must be quashed immediately, PEN America said in a statement today.

On April 3, DHS posted a request for information seeking a contractor to compile this database, which will also include information about bloggers and various publications’ circulation numbers and general “sentiment.” According to Bloomberg, DHS wants the database to track “more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media.” After an outcry when the DHS plan was made public, DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton responded by saying it is “nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media” and accusing those sounding the alarm of being “conspiracy theorists.”

“Under any circumstances, an effort by the Department of Homeland Security to create a database identifying journalists and logging the ‘sentiments’ of hundreds of thousands of press outlets would be deeply troubling. It is all the more so in the light of the Trump Administration’s relentless efforts to undermine press freedom both at home and abroad,” said Katherine Glenn Bass, director of free expression research and policy at PEN America. “The Department’s claims that it is simply ‘monitoring current events’ are laughable—as they surely realize, an announcement that the DHS is creating a comprehensive database of journalists and media outlets could cast a widespread chill over press freedom. They should scrap this plan immediately.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: 

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org