WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As our nation continues to struggle with the enormous impact of a global pandemic and an outcry for racial equity and social justice, Americans are more reliant than ever on journalists to gather, sort and report the news with accuracy and fairness.
"Reporters are witnesses," said National Press Club President Michael Freedman. "To silence the press is to silence the people, silence accountability, and silence the truth."
Yet, in a growing and alarming pattern, journalists have been attacked, injured and arrested without provocation by law enforcement authorities, in spite of following agreed-upon guidelines established to protect their constitutional right to pursue their jobs.
In the latest incident, confirmed in a video recording, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies tackled, roughed up, arrested, detained and charged Josie Huang, a reporter with NPR affiliate KPCC Radio. Huang had been covering a press conference at a hospital where two police officers were taken after being shot in an ambush. Following the press conference, police clashed with a demonstrator, and Huang rushed to record the scene. Video of the incident shows police hurting Huang even after she tried to cooperate and clearly identified herself as a reporter. Scraped and bruised, she was held for five hours and charged with obstruction.
Huang's is the latest in a wave of assaults on journalists this year as they have covered unrest associated with America's 2020 racial reckoning. In May, freelance photojournalist Linda Tirado was shot in her left eye and partially blinded by a foam bullet fired by an officer while covering a Minneapolis protest following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. Tirado, wearing press credentials, was taking photos at the time.
According to the Press Freedom Tracker, such attacks number more than 800, and a substantial percentage of them have been committed by police.
In June, the National Press Club and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club's nonprofit affiliate, penned an open letter to law enforcement signed by more than 30 other news and press-freedom organizations calling for a halt to police violence against the press and demanding accountability for those who have perpetrated it.
Club president Freedman and Institute president Angela Greiling Keane reiterated that call today.
"The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has told reporters that it is investigating the Josie Huang incident," said Greiling Keane. "The probe should be completed quickly and fairly. And we implore other law enforcement authorities across the country to deliver a message of zero tolerance for officers found to have interfered with journalists' First Amendment rights. When police assault journalists who are doing their jobs, those officers must face swift and severe consequences."
The National Press Club, the World's Leading Professional Organization for Journalists™, represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide. The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement.
SOURCE National Press Club