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U.S. transportation policy change raises concerns for journalists in transit

Digital devices
Digital devices

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The following is a CPJ blog post written by Geoffrey King, CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator:

On Sunday, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced a new policy requiring that travelers to the United States turn on their devices at the request of airport security personnel. Devices that cannot be powered on will be barred from the aircraft, and passengers in possession of such devices may also be subjected to additional screening. While a number of commenters have lamented the policy change on the grounds that it is likely to cause confusion and otherwise inconvenience passengers, the move could also aggravate the risks journalists already face when traveling with sensitive materials such as notes, unpublished photographs, or information about sources.

Reuters reported on July 4 that the new TSA policy was prompted by fears among some U.S. government officials that Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant groups may seek to build bombs into electronic devices. The policy does not grant airport screeners the broad authority to search electronic devices frequently exercised by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a practice under challenge by civil rights groups and that has reportedly been used against journalists. "Journalists should know that their items aren't going to be searched" under the new policy, a Department of Homeland Security official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CPJ. "Their items aren't going to be taken from them." TSA's interest, the official said, is in whether devices turn on at all.

Read the full story on CPJ's site.

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