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Letter to New Jersey prosecutor concerning arrest of journalist at protest

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  1. Newsgathering

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has asked the Monmouth County, New Jersey, prosecutor’s office to update its findings from an investigation into the arrest of an Asbury Park Press journalist and clarify that the Reporters Committee’s resources do not support the conclusion that officers could have believed the reporter was a protester.

The investigative conclusions cited a Reporters Committee guide and tip sheet for reporters covering protests in support of Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni’s ultimate findings that officers reasonably believed reporter Gustavo Martínez Contreras was not a journalist when officers tackled and arrested him as he covered a June 1 protest.

“The guide and tip-sheet do not support that conclusion, and we respectfully ask that you clarify your Investigative Findings accordingly,” the Reporters Committee stated in a letter sent to Gramiccioni on July 13.

The Reporters Committee’s letter explains that the guide and tip sheet only provide practical safety tips for reporters covering protests — not the legal standard for when officers should know someone is a journalist. It also states that both the prosecutor’s investigation and Contreras’s account of the incident reveal that he had followed the advice detailed in the Reporters Committee guides at the protest: confirming that press was exempt from the curfew order, identifying himself as a reporter numerous times, complying with law enforcement, and wearing his press badge.

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, issued a statement on July 13, expressing concern about the prosecutor’s decision to cite the Reporters Committee’s resources to support its investigation’s conclusions.

“Reporters Committee resources are intended to help journalists stay safe while covering protests,” Brown said, “and it’s improper for the prosecutor’s office to use them to conclude officers acted reasonably under the law when arresting Gustavo Martínez Contreras.”

Read the Reporters Committee’s full letter to the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office.