Beaten, pepper sprayed, arrested
By Jean Godden
Reporting -- the only job I ever wanted growing up -- is suddenly a hazardous occupation. While authoritarian regimes like Putin's Russia have long targeted journalists, labeling them "foreign agents," jailing them, disappearing them and allegedly killing them. But until now reporters and photographers -- protected under the First Amendment -- were free to do their jobs in this country.
Suddenly things have changed. The sad fact is that, day by day, the job of reporting is growing more dangerous. Reporters are being beaten, teargassed, pepper sprayed and arrested by police in numbers never before documented in the United States.
There are dozens of shocking stories. During Minneapolis protests, police targeted photo journalist Linda Tirado. She was shot with rubber bullets and lost permanent vision in her left eye. Covering protests for Vice news, Michael Adams lay down and covered his head with his press pass. It was no protection; he was pepper sprayed in the face.
The police aren't alone in intentionally zeroing in on journalists. Protesters too have targeted members of the media. A protest mob vandalized the Atlanta headquarters of CNN. A group of CHOP occupiers stalked and harassed a Q13 news crew on Seattle's Capitol Hill.
In just one week, from May 26 to June 2, there were 148 arrests and attacks on journalists in different cities. Dozens more have followed. Some attacks were brutal with reporters pushed, pounded and thrown to the ground. During Portland protests, journalists were repeatedly mistreated. In Seattle, police have been accused of deliberating targeting reporters, photographers and neutral observers.
Reporting has had tough moments in the past, even in this country. During 1960's anti-war protests and civil rights demonstrations, reporters were targeted. But at that time there was a tacit understanding that news coverage was necessary and journalists were allowed to do their jobs. Now that seems changed.
What has happened to our basic principles? Those values have been under siege most notoriously from President Donald Trump. He attacks what he calls "fake news" and "the lamestream media." The president calls the press "the enemy of the people." His invective has not only exacerbated disrespect for press freedom here, but also abroad. His assaults have emboldened authoritarian leaders around the world to crackdown on the press, using Trump's words as justification.
While press freedoms are threatened on one front, they're also vulnerable from another quarter. Here in Seattle, King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee upheld a police subpoena ordering the Seattle Times, KIRO, KING, KOMO and KCPQ to turn over unpublished photos and videos from May 30 protests in downtown Seattle. Despite efforts to squash the subpoena, Judge Lee upheld the summons, although revising it to provide for a closed-door review before deciding whether unpublished photos would be turned over to the police.
Even though later modified, Judge Lee's decision to affirm the subpoena is deeply concerning. It puts at risk constitutional freedoms and even the physical safety of news personnel. Seattle Times journalists are among those who have been chased and punched; their personal information has been posted on line for further harassment.
Judge Lee's decision seems to fly in the face of First Amendment protections and may not even square with a shield law passed by the Washington Legislature in 2007. By the time you read this, Lee's decision may be appealed, hopefully with success. Nevertheless, it is frightening to think the media's ability to cover events independently has been so seriously questioned.
In these fraught times, we need a free press and dependable news coverage more than ever. It is essential to have journalists on the scene, serving as the eyes and ears of the public. It matters that the media not be seen -- not in any way -- as an arm of law enforcement.
To function as a democracy, we depend on truth tellers, reporters and photographers who must be able to freely document current events. It is wrong to dilute our First Amendment freedoms. Wherever threats come from -- whether from presidential attack, police disregard, protestors' animus or from a wrongful court decision -- they are flat out wrong. These attacks must be seen as what they are: assaults on our basic values. We must stand up -- write and email, call officials and speak out, tell all who are listening: This must stop.
Do you have actual facts to back up these allegations? In the mass riot crowd and chaos, who has time to identify who is a reporter Without the full facts from both sides, it stands as another fake news. story