The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called for authorities to drop charges against members of the news media who were arrested while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the United States.
"It is absurd that law enforcement officials around the country continue to pursue charges against journalists who were doing their jobs at the time they were arrested," Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ program director, said in a statement. "It's high time for authorities to drop this pursuit, which is frivolous and wasteful."
More than 600 attacks against the press during the protests, ongoing since the end of May, have been reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, and many detained journalists were released without charges, according to CPJ.
As of Monday, at least six journalists still faced charges after covering the protests, the tracker showed. The charges against them—lodged by local authorities in Nevada, Minnesota, New York, and Iowa—are misdemeanors with fines up to $1,000, according to the watchdog group.
CPJ today called on authorities in the U.S. to drop charges against journalists covering #BlackLivesMatter protests and ensure that the press can work freely.
Charges are still pending against at least 6 journalists over their work covering the protests.pic.twitter.com/uXvCr2rpkk
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) August 17, 2020
The call from CPJ comes just weeks after Amnesty International released a report detailing human rights violations by police in the United States against protestors and journalists, and following reports that the Department of Homeland Security compiled "intelligence reports" on American journalists covering BLM protests in Portland, Oregon.
"If a journalist or legal observer is incidentally exposed to crowd control devices after remaining in the area, you will not [be] held liable."
"Incidentally means...while not the target of the crowd control devices, still end up being exposed" https://t.co/vLyuk3ZECo
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) July 30, 2020
Andrea Sahouri, a reporter for the Des Moines Register who has pleaded not guilty to charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts, demanded that the freedom of the press be protected in a tweet about CPJ's latest call for authorities to drop charges.
"Freedom of the press must be protected, as well as freedom to peacefully protest," Sahouri wrote. "I stand in solidarity with my fellow journalists still facing charges and protestors who have been unlawfully arrested."