Journalists faced arrest, assault in US: watchdog

A media rights watchdog said journalists in the US faced risk of arrest covering protests, such as the 2017 demonstration during the inauguration of Donald Trump
AFP

Washington (AFP) – Journalists in the United States were assaulted 45 times last year, and 34 were arrested while covering news, a report from a media rights watchdog said Tuesday.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in its first annual assessment of threats to journalistic freedom in the United States, cited a total of 122 incidents including physical assaults, arrests, equipment seizures and border checks.

“While it does not capture every press freedom incident that has occurred, the tracker strives to document the number of times journalists in the United States were arrested, assaulted, subjected to equipment searches or seizures, or detained at the border,” the report said.

“It also highlights particularly serious denials of access and chilling statements by public officials.”

The largest number of arrests of journalists came at public protests, with many swept up in a crowd-control technique known as “kettling,” where police corral demonstrators into an area and subsequently arrest everyone.

The report said more than half of the journalists arrested were freelancers.

Freelance journalist Alexei Wood was arrested while covering 2017 inauguration protests in Washington and anther freelancer, Jenni Monet was arrested while covering protests against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Of the 45 physical attacks on journalists in 2017, two were committed by elected officials, including the well-documented “body slam” of a reporter by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte.

The report noted that investigations of news leaks are also impacting press freedoms.

While just one prosecution was brought in 2017 over a news leak — that of former intelligence specialist Reality Winner on Russian interference in the US election — the report said 27 leak cases were under investigation at the end of the year.

In 2018, the government charged a former FBI agent in Minnesota in connection with a leak investigation.

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