The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press protested the Seattle police department’s decision to arrest a journalist during protests centered around the World Trade Organization conference held in that city, and encouraged the mayor to take steps to ensure similar arrests do not occur as protests continue.
“Credentialed journalists covering what is clearly a matter of great public interest should not be subject to arrest and detainment,” according to the letter sent to Seattle Mayor Paul Schell by Gregg Leslie, Acting Executive Director of the Reporters Committee.
“These journalists are providing a great public service, and even when they report news that may not place authorities in a flattering light, they are engaged in a constitutionally protected activity. The citizens of Seattle, and indeed the world, have a right to know what is happening on the streets around the trade conference, and a free, unrestrained news media is essential to that process,” according to the letter.
According to reports from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Kery Murakami, a reporter for that newspaper, was arrested Tuesday, the first day of protests that led to violence on the part of some protesters, and held overnight.
The Reporters Committee asked that the mayor and city police officials develop procedures to ensure that more journalists are not arrested, but if they are, to make sure those without access to an attorney know they can call the Reporters Committee’s toll-free 24-hour hotline to obtain assistance.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is a voluntary, unincorporated association of reporters and news editors dedicated to protecting the First Amendment interests of the news media. It has provided research, guidance and representation in major press cases in state and federal courts for 30 years.
A copy of the letter is available on the Web at https://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/seattlemayor.html