Despite a call from The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for authorities to recognize the rights of journalists working to cover the events in Ferguson, Missouri, at least two reporters were arrested by police Wednesday evening while doing their jobs.
Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowry says he was slammed into a soda machine, handcuffed and arrested, only to be released later when Ferguson’s police chief sent orders. The Huffington Posts’s Ryan J. Reilly says the officer arresting him slammed his head against the glass at the restaurant near the site of the shooting of Michael Brown where he was filing a story.
RTDNA condemns the physical violence and unjustified arrest of the journalists, and demands authorities respect the rights of reporters covering the unfolding situation in Missouri. RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender wrote a new letter to the city’s police chief Thursday morning:
Mr. Thomas Jackson
Chief of Police
City of Ferguson, MO
Dear Chief Jackson:
The police actions demonstrated last night, which resulted in the arrest and detainment of reporters Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, are unconscionable and must be stopped immediately.
Yesterday, the RTDNA, the nation’s largest professional association of electronic journalists, appealed to you for the cooperation of law enforcement as our members and other journalists perform their jobs to keep the public informed about the continuing volatile situation in Ferguson. Now, at least two of those same reporters have undergone police harassment and confinement while operating entirely lawfully. Prior to being taken into custody, Lowrey was illegally instructed to stop taking video of the situation and ordered to stop asking the officers questions about their actions. In the process, he was slammed into a soda machine and handcuffed. This is outrageous conduct on the part of the officers.
When informed of the events by another reporter, you ordered the release of the two and are quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying whoever arrested them was “probably somebody who didn’t know better.”
Frankly, they should know better. The journalistic community is demanding that you, other command officials and all law enforcement officers involved in this continuing situation respect the rights of reporters and others journalists to provide news coverage in Ferguson so long as they operate legally—which these two reporters were doing. Harassment and abuse of anyone in a similar situation cannot be accepted and must not be tolerated by you and others charged with maintaining the peace and security in Ferguson.
Cc: Governor Jay Nixon, State of Missouri
Attorney General Chris Koster, State of Missouri
Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice
Col. Ronald Replogle, Missouri State Highway Patrol
RTDNA is the world’s largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTDNA represents local and network journalists in broadcasting, cable and digital media in more than 30 countries.