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JSchool faculty votes to condemn arrests of journalists

by Robert Stewart, Director

The faculty of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism joins with the National Association of Black Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists (see statements below), and other news organizations in condemning the arrest of journalists carrying out their constitutionally protected work in reporting about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. At the same time, we applaud Police Chief Thomas Jackson for quickly releasing the arrested journalists, including Wesley Lowery, who studied journalism here at Ohio University.

The Faculty of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

See also:

  • In Ferguson, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery gives account of his arrest

  • Yes, you can record the police. And maybe the police should be recording the police.
  • NABJ Statement on the Arrests of Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly

    WASHINGTON (AUGUST 13, 2014) The National Association of Black Journalists strongly condemns the arrests of Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday. Lowery, who is an NABJ member, and Reilly, are in Missouri covering the circumstances surrounding the killing of Michael Brown and the ensuing unrest.

    Lowery and Reilly have stated they were working in a McDonald’s when police ordered them and others to leave the restaurant. Lowery and Reilly say they then were assaulted and detained by police and released shortly thereafter without being charged with a crime.

    Lowery tweeted, Officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them.

    Journalists have a constitutionally protected right to work without the government interference, NABJ President Bob Butler said. We call on and fully expect the authorities to investigate what appears to be a violation of the First Amendment and to hold the officers involved to account, if necessary.

    Lowery received NABJs Emerging Journalist of the Year award at the organizations annual convention on Aug. 2. He is also a former member of NABJs Board of Directors.

    RTDNA urges Ferguson police to work with journalists

    August 13, 2014
    Mr. Thomas Jackson
    Chief of Police
    City of Ferguson, MO

    Dear Chief Jackson:

    Im writing on behalf of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the nations largest professional association representing electronic journalists in radio, television and digital news.

    While our members and the journalism community as a whole understand your departments primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the residents of Ferguson during this time, we strongly object to the conduct of some of your officers, along with that of other law enforcement officials as it impacts journalists. This includes placing undue limits on media access to the affected portions of the community, along with the continuing reports of harassment and undue treatment of reporters, photographers and others involved on-scene, who are providing
    vital news coverage of the events as they unfold.

    These volatile situations require cooperation of all parties engaged in the lawful performance of their respective duties. It is simply unacceptable if any journalists were specifically targeted by anti-riot measures, such as tear gas, rubber bullets or similar tactics. Any such actions would be in direct conflict with reasonable respect for the rights of all involved.

    We ask that you take all measures necessary with those under your command, while asking other agencies to do the same, as it relates to ensuring journalists be given full and fair access. We also request that you take all reasonable actions required to provide them with the environment necessary for them to do their jobs. Journalists, in these situations, are fully aware of the security issues involved and understand the risks they take. In assuming those risks, however, they must also be provided with cooperation by law enforcement so that a difficult situation, such as this one, is not further exacerbated through conflict with peace officers.

    Sincerely,

    Mike Cavender
    Executive Director

    SPJ outraged by arrests of journalists in Ferguson, Mo., offers assistance to educate police department

    August 14, 2014

    INDIANAPOLIS The Society of Professional Journalists joins numerous other professional organizations in their outrage of the treatment of journalists by the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department as they report about the unrest in that community. SPJ is also offering its assistance to the police department to help them better understand how the press and police can and should co-exist.

    Journalists around the nation are angry at the reports of excessive force and outright violation of the law by Ferguson police officers, said SPJ President David Cuillier. However, we do understand that this could be a result of lack of knowledge and training on behalf of the Ferguson Police Department. We offer our expertise and resources to the department to educate them on the First Amendment and the rights of journalists to report the news without interference or threats.

    Two journalists, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post, were unjustly arrested Wednesday night while working with other reporters in a McDonalds in Ferguson. About six police officers came into the restaurant, some in regular uniforms and others in riot gear and carrying assault weapons.

    Lowery was illegally instructed to stop taking video and followed police instructions, after which he was slammed into a machine and handcuffed, Martin D. Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post said in a statement Wednesday night. Reilly also reports that a police officer slammed his head into the glass on their way out of the restaurant and then sarcastically apologized for it. Both reporters said police officers refused to provide their names or badge numbers.

    That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous, Baron continued.

    SPJ believes that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing fair and comprehensive accounts of events and issues. This past year, SPJ, in collaboration with the National Press Photographers Association, has provided training for law enforcement, journalists and citizens in a half dozen communities to educate everyone on the rights and responsibilities for anyone to photograph or take video in public.

    SPJ is offering to conduct a similar community training session for the Ferguson Police Department.

    When law enforcement, military or government agencies prevent journalists from doing their jobs, through force, intimidation or other unwarranted unethical practices, it creates a slippery slope in which democracy is compromised, Cuillier said. Part of SPJs mission is to not only educate and support journalists in their efforts to do their jobs ethically and credibly, but to help others understand the rights of journalists as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and ways these groups can co-exist and work together in a peaceful, mutually respectable manner.

    August 14, 2014

    Comments

    by Scott Wallace on 08/15/2014

    OU alum, 1990. The incident in Ferguson is simply the most recent example of police and their frequent abuse of (perceived) power and authority. If you want the world to receive fair and honest reporting, not beholden to corporate interests, then an effort should be made to undo the damage done when Ronald Reagan de-regulated the universe as we know it and allowed a tiny handful of extremely wealthy, powerful, influential individuals to own 99% of the media. There is a direct correlation between police and the use of force they are clearly comfortable in demonstrating and the consolidation of media ownership. But I think to try and go back to how it was would be akin to trying to push water back past a leaky dam. It just ain’t gonna happen. And so individual reporters leave themselves at terrible risk with editors and managers who answer to the Rupert Murdochs of the world or the stooges who do his bidding. And so the corporatization of America continues with the powers that be creating precisely the perfect storm to assure that open media remains a thing of the past – that is to say, any truly honest reporting leaves the individual reporter on a virtual island with perhaps only tiny handful of peers who may support that individual but who have no real power to protect the rights and safety of that individual if those powers decide that the information trying to be disseminated is dangerous to their goals; goals that no doubt are about enriching themselves and their ‘empire’, and most definitely not about the virtues of a free press and their support of it.

    by Doc McGarey on 08/15/2014

    1984 Grad. A rush to judgement and succumbing to fight-or-flight has been occurring for a few days in Ferguson until yesterday, the 13th, when a skillful, public-relations-driven approach prevailed. Leadership, and the accompanying judgment, is a skill that is very tough to teach. I blame police leadership for their tactical approach — a show of force at the outset— rather than the proven scale of escalation that is well-proven. The reporters were receivers of the same approach. The leadership chain of command also failed to enforce discipline on their officers. I won’t condemn the officers actions against the perpetrators and victims yet until more real facts come out. A rush to judgement also shows lack of discipline. I admire the offer to teach here by the journalistic community. The actions against the journalists were wrong, illegal and born out of ignorance.

    by Doc McGarey on 08/15/2014

    1984 Grad. A rush to judgement and succumbing to fight-or-flight has been occurring for a few days in Ferguson until yesterday, the 13th, when a skillful, public-relations-driven approach prevailed. Leadership, and the accompanying judgment, is a skill that is very tough to teach. I blame police leadership for their tactical approach — a show of force at the outset— rather than the proven scale of escalation that is well-proven. The reporters were receivers of the same approach. The leadership chain of command also failed to enforce discipline on their officers. I won’t condemn the officers actions against the perpetrators and victims yet until more real facts come out. A rush to judgement also shows lack of discipline. I admire the offer to teach here by the journalistic community. The actions against the journalists were wrong, illegal and born out of ignorance.

    by Jim Ellis on 08/15/2014

    1970 Grad. I totally agree reporters have a right to fair and honest reporting and the ability to deliver it to the masses. And yes, it is part of the crux of our democratic, free speech society. However, I dont recall EVER hearing a peep out of Dean Titsworth regarding the multitude of times the transparent Obama administration has done the very same thing, hamstringing journalists from carrying out fair and honest reporting and delivering it to the masses, as is, again, their right. Wheres the outrage over that?

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