In a vindication for press freedom and land protectors fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline, North Dakota has dismissed the "riot" charges against Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman, issued after she reported on pipeline company security guards physically assaulting nonviolent, mostly Indigenous land protectors in September.
"The judge's decision...is a great vindication of the First Amendment and...native people on the frontlines," Goodman told a crowd of supporters in Mandan, North Dakota on Monday, across the street from the courthouse.
By filing the charges in the first place, she said, "the state's attorney was attempting to stop journalism."
Goodman elaborated in a statement:
This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public's right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline. We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet.
Delphine Halgand, U.S. director for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said Monday afternoon: "We are relieved that the charges against Amy Goodman have been dismissed, but they never should have been filed in the first place. It is unacceptable that a journalist's right to cover a story of major public interest was threatened by North Dakota authorities.”
The decision was widely celebrated on social media, where journalists and activists alike had decried the attack on democracy:
— 350 dot org (@350) October 17, 2016
Judge in North Dakota has rejected trumped up "riot" charge against @democracynow's Amy Goodman. A win for journalism and democracy.
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— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) October 17, 2016
Welcome news. The prosecutors should be sanctioned for ever bringing this outrageous charge in the first place. https://t.co/nZp5Hcmeoa
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) October 17, 2016
Still, Goodman noted that other activists and journalists are facing charges for their part in the ongoing resistance.
To that end, press advocacy group Free Press delivered nearly 25,000 petitions to the office of the North Dakota state's attorney demanding that authorities drop all charges against Goodman and anyone else covering the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
"Threatening to throw journalists in jail is a blatant attempt to silence the Indigenous coalition that's protesting the construction of the pipeline on tribal lands," said Free Press campaign director Mike Rispoli. "This is a no-brainer—journalism is not a crime. The public has a right to know about protests like these. All charges must be dropped and local authorities reprimanded for violating rights that are essential to a free and functioning democracy."
Similarly, Food and Water Watch on Monday demanded the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the arrests of both Goodman and filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, who faces up to 45 years in prison for documenting a solidarity protest last week. Cracking down on Goodman, Schlosberg, and other journalists "constitutes nothing less than a war on journalism and a victory for fossil fuel interests that have banked on the pipeline," the organization's executive director, Wenonah Hauter, said in a statement.
Watch Goodman's full remarks below: