FOR RELEASE: June 4, 2020
Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute
Arlington, Va., June 4, 2020 – “The First Amendment protects journalists who are complying with reasonable law enforcement directions when covering civil unrest. The right of the media to report on police activity is foundational to our democracy, but recent documented events in Minnesota and around the country have shown the extent to which police have been violating this constitutional right,” said Richard T. Kaplar, president of The Media Institute.
The Institute joined in a letter to Minnesota officials this week urging them to take “immediate, concrete steps to end the series of police arrests and attacks on credentialed and clearly identifiable journalists” that have occurred during protests in Minneapolis and other cities in recent days.
The letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was signed by 115 media organizations and media outlets including The Media Institute.
“Police have arrested, detained, and threatened journalists, and have physically assaulted them with rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, batons, and fists. In every case that we are aware of, there are strong indications that officers knew the journalist was a member of the press,” the group writes.
The letter highlights six documented incidents (among others) in Minneapolis alone, including the case of Linda Tirado, a freelance photojournalist who lost an eye to a rubber bullet as she was clearly in the act of photographing police.
The media groups urge Minnesota and Minneapolis to implement immediately a number of protocols including: Instructing police that arresting and assaulting journalists is a First Amendment violation; taking swift disciplinary action against officers engaging in such behavior; ensuring that crowd-control tactics are designed to prevent collateral harm to journalists; and continuing to exempt members of the press from mobility restrictions, especially curfews.
“America is a democracy that values free speech and a free press, to the point of enshrining these freedoms in the U.S. Constitution,” Kaplar said. “These constitutional guarantees must be upheld and protected at all costs – especially during challenging times like these.”
The Media Institute is a nonprofit foundation working to advance sound communications policy, freedom of speech, and excellence in journalism. For more information, visit the Institute online at https://www.mediainstitute.org/.
# # #