The police report that at least six journalists were arrested and charged with felony rioting on Friday. The reason for this was their coverage of anti-Trump protests. Those erupted near the place where the president’s inauguration parade was happening. The authorities detained around 230 people that day, during the violent riots. Many of the participants were breaking the glass of the commercial buildings there and some of them even lit a limousine on fire, as a way of protesting against the new administration.
Charges for journalists
Some organizations which litigate for the freedom of the press made public the charges of those journalists. All of them denied their involvement in any violent protest during the day of Trump’s inauguration. Pen America’s executive director said that those charges are rather bizarre and unusual in what concerns the American press. It is strange indeed for some people who were just doing their job to be arrested and charged for doing what they are paid for. The journalists there were not participants of the violence, they were simply reporting the situation that was going on at that moment.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reportedly asked the police to drop all the charges right away because such a thing is not right. According to witnesses, the police arrested without discrimination at the parade. This included protesters, innocent people, and journalists. They did not ask or request IDs. The authorities simply acted. The problem is that those journalists may now be facing as much as ten years in prison for what their accusations. Among them are reporters, photojournalists, and a documentary producer.
Worries for the press
Each of the journalists could end up in prison for ten years and receive a fine of $25,000 each. The Committee to Protect Journalists is now very worried. What happened might send a rather frightening message to the press all around the country. Journalists might become afraid to cover specific news or events for fear that they could get arrested. This for just doing their job. Which, according to the committee, is not right at all. Everyone should respect the freedom of the press.
A documentary producer who was among the journalists reported that the authorities detained him for about 36 hours. They also confiscated his phone from him. He said that the police treated them horribly, like the worst criminals in history, just because they were there reporting on a situation. According to him, many were doing the same, without taking part in the conflicts. Still, the police arrested them.
All in all, it seems like the freedom of the press has now become a hot topic, following these recent events. Still, we cannot help but wonder if the fact that the police acted this way was because of specific orders they received. After the results in Ferguson, St. Louis, and Portland one would think that Police Departments are receiving better training to deal with protesters. However, we also must change the conversation that once a protester fire bombs a vehicle they turn into a rioter.
Image source: here