Reporters Committee: Targeted attacks on journalists covering protests unconstitutional
Over the last two days, journalists covering protests in cities across the country have been deliberately shot at with rubber bullets, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, detained, and arrested by law enforcement officers, and attacked and harassed by protesters.
These protests began in Minneapolis in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, but demonstrations have spread and accelerated around the country, with protesters demanding justice, an end to violence against Black Americans and greater police accountability.
In response to these attacks, Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:
“The numerous, targeted attacks that journalists reporting on protests across the country have faced from law enforcement over the last two nights are both reprehensible and clear violations of the First Amendment. These attacks not only endanger our free press, but also threaten our democracy and the essential role that journalists play in safeguarding constitutional rights.
“Many of these attacks were captured on live broadcasts. The video evidence showing journalists under police assault simply for doing their jobs is harrowing. We strongly condemn these actions and will be contacting law enforcement in each jurisdiction to demand a full explanation and accountability for officers who knowingly targeted journalists.
“We also condemn all attacks on reporters by protesters. Media coverage of the demonstrations is indispensable to helping our nation bear witness. Assaults on journalists from protesters are unlawful and make it harder for reporters to keep the country informed during this period of civil unrest.”
Journalists can consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s guide to covering protests and tip sheet for more information on their rights and how to avoid arrests while reporting on these events. Journalists covering protests who have questions or are in need of legal assistance can contact the Reporters Committee’s hotline at 800-336-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Reporters Committee is also a partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which is documenting these incidents. If you are a journalist or know of one who has been assaulted, arrested or had equipment seized or damaged in the course of covering a protest, email email@example.com.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.
Screenshot image via WAVE 3