26 free press organizations speak out against charges against Stanford student journalist who was arrested at a protest rally

Dozens of free press organizations urged the Santa Clara County district attorney on Thursday to not file charges against a Stanford University student journalist who was arrested together with 12 pro-Palestinian protesters who broke into the university president's office earlier this month.

Dilan Gohill, a 19-year-old reporter, was arrested on June 5 while covering the office occupation by the 12 protesters – including an editor from the Stanford Daily – from the barricaded constructing. He was arrested on suspicion of burglary, vandalism and conspiracy. The university temporarily suspended all of them and banned them from entering the campus. The student newspaper said in a press release that the editor involved within the protests has since resigned.

Stanford said in a June 10 statement that “the circumstances of these arrests did not reflect the typical scenario for student journalists covering a protest in a public place.”

“Rather, both Stanford Daily employees were part of a small group of individuals who barricaded themselves in a locked office building after gaining unlawful entry,” the statement said. “They had no First Amendment or other right to be there, and their conduct in this case was deeply problematic.”

Gohill and the protesters have since been released from custody and prosecutors haven’t yet announced a call on whether to file charges. Stanford President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez said in an interview on June 10: opinion This implies that the university will “fully support” the prosecution against Gohill.

But 26 journalists and freedom of expression organizations on a Thursday letter District Attorney Jeff Rosen argued that no criminal charges must be filed against Gohill.

“Given the circumstances and the lack of criminal motive, we urge your office to refrain from expending significant resources to prosecute a young journalist who acted in good faith in the public interest and sought timely coverage of newsworthy events,” the organizations wrote.

Stanford University said Thursday that it might not comment further on the matter.

The letter of support was written by the First Amendment Coalition and the Student Press Law Center, together with organizations including the ACLU of Northern California and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Max Szabo, the journalist's lawyer and spokesman, said: “Dilan and his family are grateful to the many organizations that are taking a stand and supporting both Dilan and press freedom.”

Szabo also provided recent details about Gohill's arrest on Thursday. Gohill was wearing a press pass and a Stanford Daily sweatshirt that clearly distinguished him from the protesters, Szabo said. As authorities entered the constructing, protesters “allegedly told police officers that Gohill was 'not one of us, he was part of the press,' a communication that Gohill's editors were able to overhear on speakerphone,” Szabo wrote.

Szabo wrote that Gohill spent 15 hours in jail, where Santa Clara County Sheriff's officers “attempted to gain access to Dilan's iPhone by holding it up to his face to gain access using Face ID. Dilan repeatedly looked away, thwarting officers' attempts to access his device.”

The senior editors of the Stanford Daily referred to an earlier opinion by its board, during which they “urge the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office not to file criminal charges against Dilan as they would be manifestly unfounded.”

Gohill's lawyer, Jean-Paul Jassy, ​​said it was “one thing to hold the protesters accountable, but demanding that a journalist fear criminal consequences for doing his job is contrary to a higher education institution and the university motto 'The wind of freedom is blowing'.”

Editor Ryan Macasero contributed to this report

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