The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that it is suing President Donald Trump’s administration for tracking, detaining and interrogating journalists while they were reporting on U.S.-Mexico border conditions.
The ACLU lawsuit is being filed on behalf of five photojournalists who traveled to Mexico late last year and early this year to document the stories of those traveling in a so-called caravan toward the border ― a group of asylum-seekers Trump has bashed as a “big con” and has compared to murderers.
“When the government tries to circumvent constitutional protections, we must hold it accountable,” an ACLU statement said. “No journalist should have to fear government interference for having the persistence, courage, and commitment to expose the truth.”
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
The journalists who were detained when trying to reenter the U.S. were among the press members whom the Trump administration was tracking with a secret government database uncovered by the media earlier this year, the ACLU says.
The border agents violated the journalists’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to disclose information they uncovered on their trips and the names of their sources, the ACLU contends.
Harassment of journalists at the border has been an ongoing problem during Trump’s administration. Last month, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan spoke out about the issue after a reporter said that a customs official had repeatedly asked him whether he wrote “propaganda.”
“Unequivocally, let me say that any journalist that is stopped and harassed and treated improperly because they’re a journalist is absolutely unacceptable ― unequivocally,” Morgan said.