NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · FLORIDA · Newsgathering · June 9, 2005
Journalist detained without explanation at OAS conference
June 9, 2005 · More than a dozen local law enforcement officers and Secret Service agents detained journalist Lyng-Hou Ramirez of Grupo de Diarios America for one hour Saturday at an Organization of American States meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to a complaint she filed with OAS. She was not told why she was detained, she said.
Ramirez is content director for the Miami-based Grupo de Diarios America, which compiles information from 11 newspapers in Latin America. Ramirez recounted the incident in an interview and in her complaint. She said she was exiting the Broward County Convention Center when deputies stopped her, saying she was not at an authorized exit. The deputies asked to see her credentials, and questioned her about pictures she had taken and about details of her driver’s license and press pass. They also inspected her purse and briefcase.
The sheriff department’s chief of security and two Secret Service agents subsequently questioned her about her credentials and immigration status after she told the chief that she was from Venezuela. She said that agents were mocking her for not carrying a green card and knowing the date she obtained legal resident status. She told the officers that the OAS press office could confirm her credentials, but the agents declined.
“They said this was international territory because of the conference,” she said. “They said ‘we make the rules, not them.'”
The agent finally told her she could leave, but kept her press credentials and told her she would have to obtain new press accreditation. Ramirez immediately reported the incident to the OAS press office.
In response to her complaint, a spokesman for OAS said the organization’s director of communications, James Kiernan, is going to write a letter to local law enforcement agencies, raising concerns about Ramirez’ detention.
“The treatment was pretty bad for the press,” spokesman Javier Montes said. “It was just a mess. The security was exaggerated.”
Montes said he was not informed in advance by event organizers about possible problems with the five security check points reporters had to pass through every day. The Miami Herald reported Monday that OAS delegates and journalists covering the meeting were subjected to multiple checkpoints, metal detectors and relentless police.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office does not keep records of detentions in which there are no arrests, and had not heard about the incident, a spokesman said. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department also was unaware of the incident.