ATLANTA – Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists call on St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to drop charges against journalists who were arrested while covering protests of the Republican National Convention.
According to the Associated Press, at least 19 journalists were arrested Thursday during the closing day of the convention. Other journalists were arrested during protests on Monday, which prompted a response on Wednesday from SPJ.
“We understand that police have a duty to protect and serve the public. And we understand that it can be difficult to discern the press from other rioting in the heat of the moment,” SPJ president Clint Brewer said. “But now that the dust has settled, there is no reason to press charges against journalists who clearly identified themselves and were not breaking the law.”
SPJ believes that many journalists who were arrested were victims of mistaken identity or otherwise became caught up in protests that turned riotous and unlawful. However, journalists who were caught in the middle, and were legitimately doing their jobs, should not be charged with any crimes.
“If such arrests continue in the future, at political functions or other protests, there will be alarming consequences,” said Brewer. “If the trend persists, it will have a chilling effect on journalism and affect how information is obtained and reported.”
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.