Donald Trump was accused of inciting violence against journalists last night as reporters and photographers were attacked and arrested at protests across the US this weekend.
Since a CNN crew was arrested live on air on Friday, dozens of journalists have been injured, shot at or arrested as they tried to do their jobs reporting on an uprising of anger against the death of George Floyd.
One photographer was permanently blinded in one eye after being shot with what she believed to be a rubber bullet in Minneapolis on Friday.
The US Press Freedom Tracker said it was investigating more than 100 press freedom violations from the past three days, including journalists being assaulted, arrested and having their equipment damaged.
It said at least 19 reporters were arrested, at least 36 journalists reported being shot at by police with projectiles such as rubber bullets – half of which were in the state of Minnesota.
It added that there had been at least 76 reported assaults, including physical assaults and journalists being shot at, and that 80 per cent of these were by police.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres condemned these events, saying: “When journalists are attacked, societies are attacked. No democracy can function without press freedom nor can any society be fair without journalists who investigate wrongdoing and speak truth to power.”
But the increase in attacks on journalists by police and some protesters came as Trump continued to tweet that “fake news is the enemy of the people”.
Last night, he said: “The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!”
The day before, he accused Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and MSDNC of producing more “disinformation” than “any foreign country, even combined”.
Below are just a small number of the reported incidents (more have been rounded up by the Reporters Committee here):
– Vice News journalist Michael Anthony Adams was forced to the ground and pepper-sprayed in the face by police in Minneapolis despite repeatedly telling officers “I am press” and holding his press ID out. He caught the moment on camera. The rest of his crew was also pepper-sprayed inside their car.
– LA Times journalist Molly Hennessy-Fiske wrote about being hit with tear gas and rubber bullets alongside her photographer Carolyn Cole and a group of other journalists, including a local cameraman who was later arrested, on Saturday night.
– Hennessy-Fiske, who was wounded in the leg, wrote: “I’ve covered protests involving police in Ferguson, Mo., Baton Rouge, La., Dallas and Los Angeles. I’ve also covered the U.S. military in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. I have never been fired at by police until tonight.”
– Two members of a Reuters TV crew were hit by rubber bullets in Minneapolis on Saturday night. A Reuters spokesperson said: “We strongly object to police firing rubber bullets at our crew in Minneapolis and are addressing the situation with the authorities.
“It was clear that both our reporter and security advisor were members of the press and not a threat to public order. Journalists must be allowed to report the news without fear of harassment or harm.”
– A reporter and cameraman for German international broadcaster DW were shot at as they prepared to go live on air and threatened with arrest in two separate incidents in Minneapolis on Saturday night.
Of the second incident, reporter Stefan Simons told the studio: “I can somewhat understand this because those policemen are under a lot of stress doing their job but of course they should have let us work and do our job… but we were not about to pick a fight tonight.”
– Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, a reporter for local radio station KPCC, was hit by a rubber bullet near the bottom of his throat while reporting on protests in Long Beach, California. He said a police officer aimed at him just after he finished an interview.
I just got hit by a rubber bullet near the bottom of my throat. I had just interviewed a man with my phone at 3rd and Pine and a police officer aimed and shot me in the throat, I saw the bullet bounce onto the street @LAist @kpcc OK, that’s one way to stop me, for a while pic.twitter.com/9C2u5KmscG
— Adolfo Guzman-Lopez (@AGuzmanLopez) June 1, 2020
– In Louisville, Kentucky, a local TV reporter (pictured) and photojournalist were struck by pepper balls shot at them by police. A police spokesperson later said “targeting the media is not our intention” and that they will take a “deeper look” at what happened.
– Wall Street Journal reporter Tyler Blint-Welsh said last night he was hit in the face multiple times by police using riot shields and then pushed to the ground, injuring his ankle.
“I was backing away as request[ed], with my hands up,” he wrote. “My NYPD-issued press badge was clearly visible.”
– Huffpost reporter Christopher Mathias was “violently” arrested in New York despite wearing a press badge and clearly identifying himself.
Press badges are a target now https://t.co/LQjphIdEB0
— Dell Cameron BLM (@dellcam) May 31, 2020
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee in the US, said last night: “The numerous, targeted attacks that journalists reporting on protests across the country have faced from law enforcement over the last two nights are both reprehensible and clear violations of the First Amendment.
“These attacks not only endanger our free press, but also threaten our democracy and the essential role that journalists play in safeguarding constitutional rights.”
Brown added that his organisation will contact law enforcement in each jurisdiction where journalists have reported being attacked “to demand a full explanation and accountability for officers who knowingly targeted journalists”.
On Saturday more than 100 British journalists of colour demanded the US Ambassador to the UK publicly condemn the arrest of CNN’s black reporter Omar Jimenez as his white colleague, also working in Minneapolis on the same day, was not treated in the same way by police.
In an open letter published by Huffpost, they said: “It is crucial that journalists be able to conduct their work without fear of arrest or harassment by officials.
“It is important that this applies to all journalists irrespective of their race, gender or religion in order for the journalism that is produced to truly reflect the US’s rich diversity.”
Reporters Without Borders, which ranked the US 45th on its latest World Press Freedom Index, called for urgent action from authorities to protect journalists and announce a moratorium on their arrests.
The group’s secretary-general Christopher Deloire said: “President Trump’s demonisation of the media for years has now come to fruition, with both the police and protesters targeting clearly identified journalists with violence and arrests.
“It has long been obvious that this demonisation would lead to physical violence. RSF has warned about the consequences of this blatant hostility towards the media, and we are now witnessing an unprecedented outbreak of violence against journalists in the US.”
Picture: Wave 3 News screenshot