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Federal Court Rules All Citizens Have Journalistic Protections

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In a recent federal court ruling, it was re-confirmed that First Amendment protections are not exclusive to officially recognized journalists but extend to anyone engaged in journalistic activities.

This represents a notable victory for citizen journalists and advocates of free expression and institutional accountability.

One such citizen journalist is Justin Pulliam, who is currently suing the Fort Bend County, Texas, sheriff’s department. The conflict stemmed from an incident when Pulliam, who films and uploads public interest activities such as police interactions on his YouTube channel, Corruption Report, was ejected from a press conference in July 2021 – he was deemed “not media.”

Later that year, he was arrested while capturing footage of police interaction with an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.

This case not only highlights the potential dangers of defining journalists as a special class but also the impossibility of the government being the final authority on what constitutes a journalist.

This issue of definition has been thrown into sharp focus with the arrest and prolonged imprisonment of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who exposed governments’ previously undisclosed activities. His journalistic activities were redefined by government officials as espionage, a critical blow to journalism.

However, this case does signify a significant shift in understanding what defines journalism. As Justin Pulliam continues his fight, his case answers a significant question about who deserves the protections associated with journalism, underlining that these protections must extend to all who partake in these activities. This case emphasizes the importance of citizen-led accountability and oversight in a climate where major media outlets increasingly align with the authorities’ narratives.

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