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January 25, 2017

NUJ calls on members to tweet condemnation of US journalist arrests directly at President Donald Trump

By Freddy Mayhew

The National Union of Journalists has today called on journalists to tweet directly to US President Donald Trump condemning the arrest of six media workers who were covering unrest on the day of his inauguration.

The union has called on journalists to show “solidarity” with their colleagues abroad and also condemned the arrests in the US on Friday last week, calling it a “disturbing move” and demanding charges be dropped.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have also called for rioting charges against all six to be dropped.

Those arrested include reporter Alex Rubenstein of Russia Today in America, senior producer Evan Engel of news website Vocativ, freelance journalist Aaron Cantú, documentary producer Jack Keller, photojournalist Shay Horse and live-streaming journalist Matt Hopard, the IFJ has said.

According to thee IFJ the six told police they were covering the demonstrations as journalists and showed officers their media credentials. Engel´s camera was also seized.

If convicted, each could face up to ten years in prison as well as a $25,000 (£19,800) fine. They are understood to be awaiting further hearings in February and March.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Journalism is not a crime.

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“Journalists, including NUJ members, were on the ground on the day doing their job – documenting the wide-range of events and protests linked to the inauguration.

“Arresting journalists is a disturbing move at the beginning of a new administration already mired in controversy, and we are calling on the authorities to drop the charges immediately.”

The media workers were among more than 230 people arrested in Washington on Inauguration Day following protests that resulted in damage to property.

Carlos Lauría of the CPJ said: “These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests. We call on authorities in Washington to drop these charges immediately.”

IFJ President Philippe Leruth added: “We strongly condemn these unfair arrests of our US colleagues who were observing and documenting the atmosphere following Trump´s inauguration.

“The charges against them are a clear violation of the US First Amendment as well as a botched attempt to muzzle the independent voices and prevent media watchdogs from accomplishing their mission of reporting, which seems ironic for a country that used to brag of taking a leading role in promoting freedom.

“We demand the charges are immediately dropped.”

The arrests took place on the same day the IFJ called on Trump to stop attacking the media as the group emphasised the importance of “trustworthy” journalism over next four years.

Picture: Reuters/Bryan Woolston

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