Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More on Arrested Journalists

There were four journalists arrested yesterday. They were being held for 'rioting' according to the police. Those arrested included an AP photographer and the host of Pacifica Radio's most popular show, Democracy Now!. This is a problem. I understand that there were violent protesters in St. Paul yesterday. I understand that the police had difficulty with some of them. This is no excuse for going around and arresting people, particularly journalists willy-nilly. What ever the reason for the arrest, arresting journalists smacks of intimidation. In America, I would hope that our officers of the law, could take the time to figure out who they're arresting. This report from the Bemidji Pioneer (emphasis mine).

Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke and Democracy Now! TV and radio show host Amy Goodman were among those arrested Monday at an anti-war march coinciding with the first day of the Republican National Convention.
David Ake, an AP assistant chief of bureau in Washington, said he was concerned by the arrest of Rourke, a Philadelphia-based photographer.

"Covering news is a constitutionally protected activity, and covering a riot is part of that coverage," Ake said. "Photographers should not be detained for covering breaking news

Police had been holding Rourke on a gross misdemeanor riot charge, said Tom Walsh, a St. Paul police spokesman.

Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties, Democracy Now! said in a statement. Ramsey County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine said Goodman was arrested on a misdemeanor but she didn't know the charge. She did not immediately have any information about the other three.

Police said late Monday they had arrested 284 people as of 11 p.m.. Most of the estimated 10,000 people in the march were peaceful, but small groups totaling about 200 broke windows, taunted police, slashed tires and harassed delegates.

Rourke took photos throughout the day showing police shooting tear gas at protesters. Evan Vucci, another AP photographer, was with Rourke but did not see him get arrested.

"The police had pushed the protesters into a parking lot where they had police coming from all sides to encircle one area," Vucci said. "Once they got all the protesters into this one parking lot they kind of rushed and arrested all the protesters in there."

Vucci said he was picked up from behind, thrown down, and kicked in the ribs by police before being handcuffed. He said he avoided being arrested after showing an officer his press credentials.

I'm often down on our media, but that's only because I love them so much. A free press is essential to our democracy.

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