On March 10, an Iowa jury found Des Moines Register journalist Andrea Sahouri not guilty of two charges stemming from her arrest while covering a protest last May in response to the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
“We are relieved that the jury rightfully found journalist Andrea Sahouri not guilty on all charges,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “The First Amendment clearly protects the rights of journalists to report on protests and demonstrations, and today’s decision upholds those essential protections. No journalist should be arrested or prosecuted simply for doing their job and working to bring important information to their communities.”
Ahead of the start of Sahouri’s trial on March 8, the Reporters Committee issued a statement on March 2 strongly condemning the Polk County, Iowa, attorney’s decision to prosecute Sahouri for failure to disperse and interference with official acts.
“Law enforcement should never have arrested Andrea Sahouri in the first place simply for doing her job as a reporter, and the decision to move forward with her prosecution flies in the face of the First Amendment,” Brown said. “Andrea and other journalists like her played an essential role in informing their communities about the protests for racial justice and police accountability that took place last year, and how law enforcement responded to those demonstrations.
“This kind of newsgathering is not only constitutionally protected, but all the more needed during times of crisis. We urge the Polk County attorney to follow the lead of other law enforcement agencies nationwide who have correctly dropped any charges brought against working journalists who were reporting on protests.”
In July 2020, the Reporters Committee also joined nearly 150 news media outlets and other organizations that advocate for the newsgathering rights of journalists in sending a letter to Polk County Attorney John Sarcone expressing their concerns and urging that he dismiss the charges against Sahouri. While Sahouri is among the more than 100 journalists who were detained or arrested while covering protests in 2020, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, charges were never brought or were dropped against the majority of those individuals.
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.