(NEW YORK) — News outlets recently reported that Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, has used his state’s freedom of information law to request the emails of two journalism professors who were affiliated with the University of Missouri while they worked at the Columbia Missourian, a local newspaper attached to the university, and who corresponded with the journalistic fact-checking site PolitiFact. According to reports, the emails are only available under the law because of the professors’ faculty status.

Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education programs at PEN America, said in response to the news: “Attorney General Schmitt’s request for the emails of two journalism professors appears to be little more than an effort to intimidate and silence both university faculty and the professional journalists with whom they correspond. No government official should request copies of a faculty member’s emails unless there is clear evidence of malfeasance.”

Young said: “Schmitt’s statement, through a spokesman, that he is ‘simply trying to get to the bottom of the fact checking process’ clearly fails to meet that test. Instead, Schmitt is misusing Missouri’s sunshine law, a laudable transparency measure, to violate the academic freedom of faculty and chill the speech of journalists. Schmitt should rescind this request immediately and let professors and the press do their jobs.”

About PEN America

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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org., 201-247-5057