At least 125 press freedom violations were reported over three (3) days of U.S. protests about their coverage of the aftermath of the killing of African-American George Floyd, said a media watch group—Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, they defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.
CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York said, “We are horrified by the continued use of harsh and sometimes violent actions of police against journalists doing their jobs. These are direct violations of press freedom, a fundamental Constitutional value of the United States.”
“We call on local and state officials to explicitly exempt the news media from curfew regulations so that journalists are able to report freely,” he added.
He noted that these incidents only began to occur last 29 May, and was monitored by Press Freedom Tracker which is a nonpartisan website, that CPJ is a founding partner. It is investigating each report and will publish confirmed incidents to its database.
The violations under investigation, including 20 arrests, were collated from social media accounts, news reports, and direct contact with some of the journalists affected, said CPJ.
Among those arrested were two photojournalists from Las Vegas, Nevada, Ellen Schmidt, who works for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and freelancer Bridget Bennett.
They were apprehended while working and charged with the misdemeanor of “failure to disperse,” before being released the next day, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
There were also reports of police hitting dozen more journalists with tear gas, pepper spray, or rubber bullets.
This is even as these journalists displayed their press credentials, according to the same sources.
To prevent future incidents, CPJ urges journalists to consult CPJ’s safety advisory on how to minimize the risks of covering the protests.