US journalists bullied away from reporting Ferguson riots

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called the police intimidation of journalists in Ferguson "unwarranted" and "unthinkable."

US journalists bullied away from reporting Ferguson riots

World Bulletin / News Desk

Journalists in the US are complaining that they are being violently bullied away from covering the recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri, as heavily armed police continue to intimidate reporters with arbitrary arrests and physical force.

Anti-police riots have been flaring in the mainly African-American town since 18-year-old resident Michael Brown was shot dead by Police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9. Since then, heavily armed police officers have maintained a lock on the town in a bid to quieten protests.

However, heavy-handed police tactics have instead achieved the opposite effect, only enticing protests to express further frustration with the police force who they say began firing tear gas to disperse otherwise peaceful demonstrations.

Rebelling residents were further angered when the police force originally refused to released the name of the officer who shot the young man, only to later release Officer Wilson's name on the same day another report claimed that Brown was shot six times from a distance of 30 feet for an alleged convenience store robbery.

It also claimed that Brown had been shot in the front and that he had marijuana in his system, implying that he may have posed a threat to the officer at the time of the shooting.

A preliminary autopsy revealed that Brown had indeed been shot six times, including twice in the head. Dr Michael Baden, who performed the autopsy, said: “In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times.’ Right now there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting.”

Police attempted to dampen resistance to the crackdown on Sunday night by appointing Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson to take over the seemingly trigger-happy police - a decision which was greeted with glee by the locals.

In an emotional speech, Captain Johnson apologized for the police violence, but the next day Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, called out the National Guard to restore order, citing “deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent acts” as his justification.

Captain Johnson himself also claimed police were acting “to protect lives and property,” and ordered the arrest of three journalists for witnessing an unprompted police crackdown on protesters.


Journalist have had to bear the brunt of the crackdown in Ferguson. Robert Klemko, a Sports Illustrated reported, said that he was arrested after Captain Johnson personally ordered him and his crew to walk away.

"Capt Johnson said walk away or be arrested. I started walking away. They followed and arrested us," Klemko tweeted.

On Wednesday, police "assaulted and arrested" Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery along with Huffington Post journalist Ryan Reilly for failing to exit a McDonalds. "Officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them," tweeted Lowery.

Moreover, Getty photographer Scott Olson, was arrested on Monday for apparently leaving the designated media area just to cross the street, although he was not given a reason for his arrest.

Even the designated media area has not been safe from police brutality. According to Vox, CNN's Don Lemon was shoved by a police officer while he was broadcasting live from one of the town's designated protest areas. CNN reporters are said to have become so concerned with the violence around them that they have bought out all the helmets from a local military surplus store.

"If you walk about 100 feet from OK'ed press area you find yourself lit up by a spotlight and a squad of police on hair trigger," tweeted MSNBC host Chris Hayes from Ferguson.

An Al Jazeera America TV crew was also targeted by tear gas, forcing them to abandon their equipment.

Mustafa Hussein, a local journalist from KARG Argus radio, was threatened as he was reporting on Sunday by a police officer who was heard telling him,"Get the **** out of here and get that light off, or you're getting shot with this."

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called the police intimidation of journalists in Ferguson "unwarranted" and "unthinkable," prompting the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday to announce it was goingto sue the town and the county seeking a court order from a judge to asset that "the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties."

Even U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the actions of the police, saying "Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their job and report to the American people what they see on the ground."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Ağustos 2014, 17:41