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Why Ferguson police are arresting journalists

Why Ferguson Police Are Arresting Journalists

"Here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground."

That was President Obama the day after two journalists were arrested while covering protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Since that day, stories of journalists being arrested or otherwise caught up in the clashes between police and protestors have been pouring in.

Scott Olson, the photographer responsible for one of the most iconic images to come out of the protests so far, was arrested Monday.

Also Monday, two reporters working for a German newspaper were arrested. One of them, a veteran who has reported from Gaza, Iraq and China, said Ferguson was the first place he'd been arrested and "treated rudely by the police."

And a reporter for The Telegraph was arrested Sunday along with reporters from Sports Illustrated and Financial Times. They were all released less than ten minutes later.

According to Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, it's a matter of not being able to tell who's a reporter and who's not.

"We're not sure who's a journalist and who's not. And yes if I see someone with a $50,000 camera on his shoulder I'm pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around and all you have is a cell phone because you're from a small media outlet."

A KMOV reporter from St. Louis pointed out a further wrinkle Monday night, saying, "The role of 'citizen journalists' has been interesting to watch in Ferguson. An unfamiliar topic to many cops I've talked to."

Some journalists have their own theories, though: like that the police are intentionally targeting reporters.

Max Fisher at Vox says police arrest journalists in order to make a political statement about their authority, adding, "Intimidation of journalists in Ferguson is not just coming from the occasional hotheaded cop."

But there are also those, like a writer for Hot Air, who say the situation is more complicated than that, accusing some journalists of trying to get arrested for attention. "In many ways, the media appears to believe that it is an active participant in the events in Missouri."

Legally, at least, the police seem to be within their rights. A general counsel for the National Photographers Press Association told The Poynter Institute that while reporters are protected by the First Amendment, police can order journalists to move away from a dangerous area, and not complying with the order could lead to an arrest.

Though he also notes that police can't order the media to leave completely, saying "That restricts far more speech and free press than is necessary to achieve a government purpose."

That's something that the 48 news organizations that penned a letter to the Ferguson police forces apparently think has been happening - citing their concern for journalistic freedom and asking for increased transparency from law enforcement.

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TEXVOODOO2 August 19 2014 at 11:13 PM

I can fully understand why some of them are arrested. There are so many 'journalists' today who do not report the news, but actually try to create the news. They are only there to stir the pot and create more unrest and chaos that the authorities have to deal with. The main people who need to be arrested is Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Eric Holder, and Obama himself. Get these people out of the equation and things would probably return to normal fairly quickly. They are nothing but agitators who stoke the fires of racial divide.

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43 replies
guso August 19 2014 at 10:59 PM

If Journalists think they are any better than the protesters when they are told to move and give attitude then they will be arrested

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15 replies
Hector Gonzalez August 19 2014 at 11:30 PM

Liberal journalist representing the Obama administration are as dangerous as the rioters and the looters.

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14 replies
susanlenard August 19 2014 at 11:21 PM

Many of these so called journalists need to REPORT the news instead of trying to CREATE the news, and CNN and MSNBC need to stop their reporters from Inciting a Riot. Actually, they should be arrested for inciting a riot! This is not a federal crime, Holder has NO Authority to do anything but visit the city. WHY is AOL spreading this propoganda?

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13 replies
Jack August 19 2014 at 11:19 PM

The press always over step their bounds and deserve to be arrested when violating lawful orders from police officers trying to do their jobs in the middle of rioting.

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5 replies
MARTHA & PERRY August 19 2014 at 11:21 PM

arrest them all, they only tell one side and it's usually liberally biased. maybe if they're all arrested things will quite down.

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11 replies
shadyobama August 19 2014 at 11:13 PM


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21 replies
autounionbailout August 19 2014 at 11:30 PM


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19 replies
richie3gs August 19 2014 at 11:15 PM

cops think they above law ...

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21 replies
juanmpuertas August 19 2014 at 11:15 PM


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27 replies
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