Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content | Leap to Bottom

Coalition calls for charges to be dropped against Standing Rock journalists - Committee to Protect Journalists

3.3.17

Coalition calls for charges to be dropped against Standing Rock journalists - Committee to Protect Journalists



Allen Koppy
Morton County State's Attorney 210 2nd Ave.,
NW Mandan,
ND 58554
Via email: [email protected]

March 2, 2017

Dear Mr. Koppy,

We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, along with the organizations listed below, write to request that the Morton County State's Attorney's Office drop the charges against journalists arrested during protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline or justify the arrests of reporters in the course of their work.

CPJ has documented at least 10 journalists still facing charges in relation to the protests, including nine in Morton County. Two of the journalists--Christopher Schiano and Nicholas Georgiades, from the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot--face trial on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges today and tomorrow respectively. Police arrested them September 13 while Schiano and Georgiades were filming protesters who had locked themselves to construction equipment. In a video of the arrest, one of the journalists can be heard saying, "I'm press, sir. I'm press."

Other journalists still facing charges include freelancers Sara LeFleur-Vetter, Jihan Hafiz, Adam Schrader, Jenifer Stum, and Jenni Monet, and Lorenzo Serna, from Unicorn Riot, and Myron Dewey, from Digital Smoke Signals. On February 28, five press freedom and journalist groups, including CPJ, sent a letter to your office asking that it return equipment to freelance photographers Tonita Cervantes and Tracie Williams, who were arrested last week and still face charges. We are glad to hear that their equipment was returned to them yesterday.

At least five of the journalists facing charges, with whom CPJ spoke, said they were arrested despite attempting to follow police orders to disperse or remain behind police lines. Monet said in a column for Columbia Journalism Review that she was arrested while following an officer's order to leave an area where protests were taking place.

Most of the journalists facing charges are freelancers or from smaller, independent outlets that lack the resources to pay attorney fees or mount a public defense for the reporters. The fact that these journalists do not have the backing of large media companies may make them more vulnerable--but it does not lessen their First Amendment protected right to report the news.

Journalists have an important role in documenting incidents in the public interest, including instances of civil disobedience and law enforcement operations. This role often draws them near to the scene of action. Trespass and rioting laws should require criminal intent, and journalists who are simply doing their job should not face criminal charges.

Prosecutors and the courts often use discretion to avoid charging journalists arrested at protests. There is recent precedent for this: the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia announced that it dropped charges against at least six reporters who were swept up in arrests on inauguration day in Washington D.C.

We are concerned that the arrests of journalists can have a chilling effect on press freedom and discourage media from covering stories that are in the public interest. In the case of Standing Rock, several journalists told CPJ they have shied away from covering protests or getting too close to police action to avoid being arrested again. While we acknowledge that journalists are sometimes temporarily detained in emergency situations, a case where several journalists face criminal charges for simply doing their job is unacceptable.

Sincerely,

Carlos LaurĂ­a,
Program Director and Senior Program Coordinator for the Americas
Committee to Protect Journalists

Bobby Magill
President
Society of Environmental Journalists

Bruce D. Brown
Executive Director
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Bryan Pollard
President
Native American Journalists Association

Delphine Halgand
North America Director
Reporters Without Borders

Lynn Walsh
National President
Society of Professional Journalists

Melissa Lyttle
President
National Press Photographers Association

Trevor Timm Executive
Director
Freedom of the Press Foundation

CC:

Kyle Kirchmeier,
Morton County Sheriff Wayne
Stenehjem, North Dakota Attorney General


Read the full article … 

Dispatch: Aboriginal Press Media Group  |   Permalink  |   [3.3.17]  |   0 comments

3609241961087616156

»  {Newer-Posts} {Older-Posts}  «

0 Comments:

Post a Comment


Links to this posting:

Create a Link


 / 3.3.17 / 2017/03/#3609241961087616156




Aboriginal News Group

Contributing Editors, International Correspondents & Affiliates




This is an Ad-Free Newswire


#ReportHate
============
Southern Poverty Law Center


This site uses the Blogspot Platform



Impressum

Inteligenta Indigena Novajoservo™ (IIN) is maintained by the Aboriginal Press News Service™ (APNS) a subset of the Aboriginal News Group™ (ANG). All material provided here is for informational purposes only, including all original editorials, news items and related post images, is published under a CC: Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 license (unless otherwise stated) and/or 'Fair Use', via section 107 of the US Copyright Law). This publication is autonomous; stateless and non-partisan. We refuse to accept paid advertising, swag, or monetary donations and assume no liability for the content and/or hyperlinked data of any other referenced website. The APNS-ANG and its affiliate orgs do not advocate, encourage or condone any type/form of illegal and/or violent behaviour.