Why Is A Stanford Student Reporter Still Facing Felony Charges?

A coalition demands that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office abandon felony charges against a student journalist at Stanford University

Why Is A Stanford Student Reporter Still Facing Felony Charges?
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who should not pursue felony charges against a student journalist at Stanford University (Photo: Santa Clara County/Government photo)

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A coalition of press freedom and First Amendment organizations have demanded that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office abandon felony charges against a Stanford University student reporter. 

Dilan Gohill, a freshman, covers student protests for the university’s newspaper known as The Daily. He was arrested on June 5, along with 12 demonstrators, after they engaged in an act of civil disobedience against the Stanford’s investments in companies “that provide material and logistical support to Israel’s current military campaign” in Gaza. 

The letter [PDF] from the coalition to the local prosecutor indicates that police jailed Gohill for 15 hours. He could be charged with “felony burglary, vandalism, and conspiracy, according to his lawyers and the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.”

Gohill was present for the direct action because he was assigned to report on the news. “In the course of his reporting, Gohill became barricaded inside the building,” the letter recalls. “He identified himself as a reporter, displaying his newspaper-issued press badge, and wearing a red Stanford Daily sweatshirt, which visibly distinguished him from protesters who dressed in black.” 

The letter adds, “When officers arrived, Gohill told them he was a member of the press, and protesters even told police he was not one of them, an interaction his editors could hear via speakerphone."

Organizations that signed on to the letter include the ACLU of Northern California, the California News Publishers Association, the First Amendment Foundation, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Stanford administrators announced immediately following the action that all students who were arrested were suspended. Any senior students were supposed to be denied graduation, and the university shut down all peaceful encampments on campus, including a vigil supporting Israeli military operations against Gaza. Administrators effectively restricted freedom of assembly for all students.

As editors for The Daily mentioned on June 12, Gohill was reinstated as a reporter and his suspension was revoked. But Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen did not immediately announce that his office would decline to pursue criminal charges against Gohill.

There is no dispute that reporting on nationwide student protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza is newsworthy. However, as The Dissenter previously noteddozens of reporters have experienced incidents, where they were arrested, detained, or threatened with arrest. 

Student reporters, who are training to become journalists, have bore the brunt of crackdowns on media access to protests or civil disobedience actions. Sometimes school administrators have denied students access to press briefings while simultaneously welcoming local news reporters interested in updates on campus protests.

Gohill is a young journalist still learning the craft so that he may possibly become a media professional. The fact that a student may become a convicted state felon because they performed their duty as a reporter for their school’s newspaper is rotten and appalling.

Like any journalist with this type of assignment, Gohill provided real-time updates on protesters, and later, the response by police and the university. He should not be charged with multiple felonies, and it is very troubling that Rosen has not signaled his office will not pursue prosecution.