UPRISING: Leading Journalism Groups Demand Law Enforcement Halt Attacks on Working Press

Andrea Germanos reports on the reasons 18 organizations — including the National Press Club, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists  and PEN America — are raising alarm. 

Police officer in Minneapolis gesturing to a news reporter covering George Floyd protests on May 30, 2020, to get on the ground. (Twitter)

By Andrea Germanos

Leading journalism groups on Monday urged U.S. police forces to stop targeting members of the media covering the nationwide protests catalyzed by the police killing of George Floyd, writing, “When you silence the press with rubber bullets, you silence the voice of the public.”

The demand comes in an open letter from 18 organizations including the National Press Club (NPC), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and PEN America.

“Over the past 72 hours police have opened fire with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, pepper balls and have used nightsticks and shields to attack the working press as never before in this nation. This must stop,” the groups write.

“A few years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, police attempted some of these tactics and they failed. Courts found against governments that illegally arrested journalists and then tried to ban them from their state. It was devastating for Missouri’s reputation,” the letter says. 

“This will happen again,” the groups predict, singling out law enforcement in “Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Denver, Fargo, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and other cities.”

“Do not fire upon them. Do not arrest them. The world is watching. Let the Press tell the story,” states the letter.

The new open letter came as CPJ said in a statement Monday evening that at least 125 incidents involving violations of press freedom had occurred in the three-day period beginning May 29 in the context of the current social uprising.

“We are horrified by the continued use of harsh and sometimes violent actions of police against journalists doing their jobs. These are direct violations of press freedom, a fundamental Constitutional value of the United States,” said CPJ program director Carlos Martinez de la Serna.

“We call on local and state officials to explicitly exempt the news media from curfew regulations so that journalists are able to report freely,” he added.

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CPJ pointed to a new database from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project from Freedom of the Press Foundation and CPJ. The log has a running tally of incidents during the ongoing George Floyd protests including arrests, assaults—including whether the incident was committed by police and if a weapon such as tear gas or rubber bullets were used—and equipment damage.

Laura Hazard Owen wrote Monday at NiemanLab that “it’s becoming clear that attacks by police on journalists are becoming a widespread pattern, not one-off incidents.”

A number of news reports and videos shared on social media in recent days provide evidence of that pattern.

“I researched countless protests for my first book. I’ve written about many since. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never seen the widespread, deliberate targeting of journalists by police that we’ve seen over the last few days. Something has changed,” journalist Radley Balko tweeted Monday.

Another organization, Free Press, this week amplified the demand for press safety and said the need for journalists to be in the streets alongside protesters to amplify their perspectives was more crucial than ever.

“It bears repeating,” Free Press News Voices organizing manager Alicia Bell said Monday. “The First Amendment prevents law enforcement from silencing the voices of protesters and from beating back the journalists who seek to share their concerns with the world.”

 “Reporters need to turn their cameras and microphones toward the local organizers who have long engaged in the fight for Black dignity alongside those who are now taking to the streets with legitimate grievances against a system that devalues the lives of our people,” she continued.

“This moment underscores the importance of deep relationship building between newsrooms and communities,” said Bell. “Newsrooms must replace police ride-alongs with community-listening sessions and other intentional tactics for shifting power.”

Andrea Germanos is senior editor and a staff writer at Common Dreams.

This article is from CommonDreams. 

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16 comments for “UPRISING: Leading Journalism Groups Demand Law Enforcement Halt Attacks on Working Press

  1. Des Kahn
    June 5, 2020 at 22:51

    Well, Phillip, are you saying that the police are not deliberately attacking journalists when they know they are journalists? It’s clear to me that they are. Come on, man, get off it!

  2. Joe Christopher Renaud
    June 5, 2020 at 14:38

    The media, including Journalist without boarders, are complicit at creating the very problem they are complaining about. How Ironic. When it comes to uncovering the deep state and their political hacks, all the public gets are crickets. But every move Trump makes is somehow noted and blasted across every news outlet as dangerous, reckless, wrong or unsympathetic? Is there any such thing as being 3 faced?

    • Kathy Woods
      June 5, 2020 at 19:57

      While I am angry about the craven coverage of the protests by MSM, the 1st Am and the press as an institution must be vigorously defended now more than ever. The corporate press as currently constituted don’t require the protection of the 1st Am. That is why they don’t defend Assange or fear what the consequences of his persecution. There will be no negative consequences for them. As they have no intention of challenging the power, they have no need to be protected from its abuse. They are the voice of the powerful. The deterioration of the 1st Am only serves to further enable their monopolistic control of communication. But the 1st Am does still provide some, admittedly diminishing, protection for the voices of alternative and citizen journalists. The corporate press are pretenders that defend the freedom of press only to protect trivial issues of their status within the power elite. We can’t rely on them to defend the press, they are not the press in any meaningful sense of the word.
      There are dozens of videos posted on Twitter that show violent attacks against their own reporters. For the most part, they don’t make it on air. When they do, they are minimized, or compared to attacks protesters attacks on journalists (which number exactly 2 by my count and show great restraint by the protesters imo). When the story of repression of the press is presented from the TV studios and on the pages of the NYT and WaPo, MSM falsely equates the actions of the police, acting under color of authority, armed with military equipment, and backed by the full force of the state, with the actions of random, anonymous, individuals in an unorganized crowd.
      The temptation to denounce the press and refuse to defend their rights is powerful. But we must see clearly that freedom of the press is of little benefit to them. We our defending OUR right to a free press, which is more vital than ever as these charlatans spread out and occupy the place reserved for those who would truly inform the people.

  3. Philip Reed
    June 5, 2020 at 12:54

    Is it just me but has nobody noticed that all of the on site reporters from both MSM and non-MSM are dressed casually with many just in black with not one of them wearing PRESS on their fronts or backs. Unlike press in a war zone. Which, let’s be honest, much of this has resembled a war zone.
    I know they carry small press credential cards but what law enforcement personnel can see that in a chaotic environment.
    How are they to be distinguished from protesters or rioters.
    Could it be they are purposely not wearing clearly identifiable vests with PRESS because protesters or rioters might attack them. Which actually has happened regardless. The Fox journalist being the one most observed getting that treatment from protesters.
    Or could it be for more nefarious reasons like purposefully looking like an unidentifiable protester or rioters thus encouraging a negative reaction from police for a photo-op.
    I’ll leave that to your imagination.
    Bottom line. Make yourself clearly identifiable.Wear your luminous PRESS vest. It’ll help.
    Signed a retired Canadian police officer.

  4. Jay
    June 5, 2020 at 07:23

    That’s rich coming from Chivers.

    Did he say “this illegal invasion must stop” when he was covering the US in Iraq or Afghanistan?

  5. geeyp
    June 5, 2020 at 01:12

    If MSM had spoken out a long time ago, say 2010, and not let up regarding the persecution of Julian Assange, I would feel 100% with them now. Seeing as they didn’t, my heart leaks nothing for them. That includes all who use censorship.

    • June 5, 2020 at 11:55

      Indeed, there were a kinda poetic justice here, were it not they (Corporatocracy) own the narrative. So their hypocritical pose will be hypocritically honored. So goes pomo America.

  6. June 4, 2020 at 14:49

    It’s their own fault. “Fake News” is not just a demagogue’s defence tactic; nor just WMD, Russiagate, etc., but is always tendentious, and very often itself an actor, -in provoking or heightening sensationalism that wouldn’t naturally occur, providing savvy “protesters” the opportunity to game the camera. Hence, they are per force the enemy of even the most punctilious police.
    They are the enemy of law. Already Derek Chauvin is a “murderer”, denying him the presumption of innocence, the “alleged” routinely accorded even an Eddie Gallagher, Jeffrey Epstein, etc..

  7. lexxxx
    June 4, 2020 at 14:05

    the thugs don’t want to be filmed WHEN THEY ARE THE ONES STARTING THE VIOLENCE

  8. jaycee
    June 4, 2020 at 13:38

    Needless to say, reporters who are “embedded” with police – i.e. positioned behind the police lines – are not being attacked. This dynamic was also at play during the Iraq War where all journalists not officially embedded were targeted.

  9. Susan
    June 4, 2020 at 11:04

    And still the mainstream media does nothing to denounce the unlawful imprisonment of Julian Assange – hypocrites!

    • Andrew Thomas
      June 4, 2020 at 17:12

      Amen, Susan. How does the empire look now? Now that what it has been doing with impunity beyond our borders, and to the black, brown and Native underclass within our borders, is coming down on you? Are you ready, finally, now, to understand fully what your role is, if you work for media owned and operated by corporations which in part dictate to, and in the other part take dictation from, the state? That the minute you step outside your roles as propagandists, apologists, and, yes, liars on its behalf you become as disposable as any of its victims? I certainly hope so. We could use a lot more Bob Parrys and Joe Laurias out here.

    • rosemerry
      June 5, 2020 at 02:57

      Exactly! They involve the compliant UK “justice” to hold him in wait for extradition, for daring to tell the truth.

    • Skip Scott
      June 5, 2020 at 08:41

      Fantastic insight! You can’t have it both ways. The MSM has been the Oligarchy’s lap dog, and now they expect to be able to bite their master and get away with it. They went from covering war to being “embedded” reporters, and from showing dead bodies to showing Generals with power point presentations and commentators talking about “beautiful weapons.” Julian is in Belmarsh for being a “real” journalist, and they’ve done nothing to stand up for him. And now the chickens have come home to roost.

  10. Truth first
    June 4, 2020 at 10:16

    Much of this would not be happening if police were required to clearly post their names on the front and back of their uniforms.
    Their real verifiable names.

    • Philip Reed
      June 5, 2020 at 12:59

      If the press wore luminous vests with PRESS front and back might also be useful.

Comments are closed.