Literary group Pen America on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against United States President Donald Trump to stop him “from using government machinery to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes”.

The organisation is represented by nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic. The lawsuit demands that the federal court declare that Trump violated the First Amendment that protects free speech. It also seeks an injunction blocking the president from using his office to retaliate against those who criticise him.

“President Trump’s tirades against the press are not new,” Pen America’s statement said. “His cries of “fake news” are an almost daily occurrence. The White House has called for individual journalists to be fired, and the president has referred to the media as “the enemy of the American people.”

Pen America said the White House’s treatment of media people has led to an “environment of hostility toward the media wherein journalists have been subject to death threats, needed bodyguards to cover political rallies, and have faced attacks in their newsrooms”. The organisation said Trump’s threats may intimidate individual writers into reconsidering publishing pieces “that could put them in the White House’s crosshairs”.

Pen America called on courts to intervene and declare the president’s actions “unconstitutional” when he “crosses the line and threatens to use his authority to punish the media or actually does so”.

On August 16, more than 300 newspapers across the United States responded to The Boston Globe’s call to write and publish editorials denouncing Trump’s ‘‘dirty war against the free press”.