UPRISING: Calls to Drop ‘Absurd’ Charges Against Journalists Covering Protests

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The Committee to Protect Journalists speaks up for members of the press who were arrested while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the U. S. 

By Lisa Newcomb
Common Dreams

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called for authorities to drop charges against members of the news media who were arrested while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the United States.

“It is absurd that law enforcement officials around the country continue to pursue charges against journalists who were doing their jobs at the time they were arrested,” Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ program director, said in a statement. “It’s high time for authorities to drop this pursuit, which is frivolous and wasteful.”

More than 600 attacks against the press during the protests, ongoing since the end of May, have been reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, and many detained journalists were released without charges, according to CPJ.

Nearly three months after the height of national #BlackLivesMatter protests in the U.S., at least six journalists are still facing charges stemming from their coverage.@ellenschmidttt @MatDerrien @CraigLassig @keithboykin @andreamsahourihttps://t.co/7zUOmTmBfM

— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) August 17, 2020

As of Monday, at least six journalists still faced charges after covering the protests, the tracker showed. The charges against them — lodged by local authorities in Nevada, Minnesota, New York, and Iowa — are misdemeanors with fines up to $1,000, according to the watchdog group.

The call from CPJ comes just weeks after Amnesty International released a report detailing human rights violations by police in the United States against protestors and journalists, and following reports that the Department of Homeland Security compiled “intelligence reports” on American journalists covering BLM protests in Portland, Oregon.

Andrea Sahouri, a reporter for the Des Moines Register who has pleaded not guilty to charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts, demanded that the freedom of the press be protected in a tweet about CPJ’s latest call for authorities to drop charges.

“Freedom of the press must be protected, as well as freedom to peacefully protest,” Sahouri wrote. “I stand in solidarity with my fellow journalists still facing charges and protestors who have been unlawfully arrested.”

Consortium News

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