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Press Freedom Groups Want Charges Dropped Against Stanford Student Journalist

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Stanford Daily student journalist Dilan Gohill. (Courtesy of Dilan Gohill)

A consortium of press freedom organizations is calling on Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen not to pursue criminal charges against a student journalist who was arrested while covering a pro-Palestinian protest at Stanford University.

The First Amendment Coalition, the Student Press Law Center and two dozen other press organizations issued a letter to Rosen on Thursday asking him not to charge Dilan Gohill, a freshman student journalist for The Stanford Daily.

Gohill was one of 13 people arrested on June 5 when protesters broke into the university president’s office and barricaded themselves inside before law enforcement later entered and removed them. Gohill was booked into Santa Clara County Main Jail on charges of burglary, vandalism and conspiracy.


“District attorneys have to make decisions in the interest of justice, and it’s not in the interest of justice to prosecute a reporter for reporting the news,” David Loy, the legal director for the First Amendment Coalition, said.

In the letter, the consortium highlights that during the protest action, Gohill was dressed in red Stanford Daily attire and displaying a press badge, while the protesters were dressed in black. Gohill did not participate in the protest in any way, nor did he vandalize any property, and he identified himself as a journalist to officers, the letter said.

“Based on the circumstances and absence of any criminal motivation, we urge your office to avoid expending significant resources prosecuting a young journalist who was acting in good faith to serve the public’s interest in timely coverage of newsworthy events,” the letter reads.

Gohill’s editors at the Daily have also issued multiple statements noting that he was there to cover the protest, along with another reporter who remained outside, and he was in communication with his editors.

A spokesperson for Rosen’s office, Sean Webby, told KQED that the district attorney’s office has still not received cases regarding the people arrested at Stanford on June 5, so the office declined to comment.

The consortium’s calls in defense of Gohill join similar requests from the editors of the Daily and come in the wake of Stanford University doubling down on supporting the criminal prosecution of Gohill.

Gohill “had no First Amendment or other legal right to be barricaded inside the president’s office​​,” the university said in a June 10 statement.

“We believe that the Daily reporter reporting from inside the building acted in violation of the law and university policies and fully support having him be criminally prosecuted and referred to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards along with the other students,” the statement said.

The press freedom organizations are not the only ones demanding Gohill not be punished. He is now being represented for free by an array of attorneys, who have also called out the university.

“The university taking the position that this kid’s a criminal, they’re in the wrong. And I would expect more of Stanford,” attorney Nick Rowley said. He added that he is ready to sue the school and law enforcement over the treatment of Gohill if needed.

Rowley said the criminal charges against Gohill should be dropped, and the university should not pursue any disciplinary action against him.

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“This was a big mistake. And we can forgive people for making mistakes and we can forget. But if they’re going to continue to press forward against this young man, they’re going to regret it. Everybody’s going to regret it,” Rowley said.

A prominent First Amendment and media attorney, Jean-Paul Jassy, who was also representing Gohill, said it was clear Gohill was there as a journalist to report the news.

“When you take a step back and you realize that the university is making a public statement that they actually encourage his criminal prosecution, that’s just ridiculous,” Jassy said. “It’s an affront not just to the sense of justice that I think we all have, but it’s really an attack on First Amendment principles of free press.”

The Daily’s editors previously noted that a second newspaper staffer, an editor, was present in the president’s office, but unlike Gohill, that editor was there to participate in the protest and was not there in a journalistic capacity.

The Daily said that the editor had not been involved in coverage related to the Israel-Gaza war “due to an established conflict of interest on this issue,” and the editor stepped down from their position at the paper earlier this month.

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