In the most recent incident of Press freedoms being shunted to the wayside, reporter Dan Heyman of Public News Service was arrested May 9th while at the West Virginia State Capitol.
HHS Tom Price and POTUS adviser Kellyanne Conway were visiting Charleston to speak with policymakers about opioid addiction.
As Price and his posse were leaving the Capitol building, Heyman followed, shouting questions after them, attempting to get a quote. Obviously, this behavior is common among journalists.
Capitol police arrested and charged Heyman with willful disruption of state government process—he had to pay a $5,000 bond to be released in wait of his trial.
A criminal complaint filed by authorities claimed Heyman was “aggressively breaching” Secret Service agents, as well as “causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.”
This statement contradicts eyewitness accounts- including Valerie Woody, an outreach coordinator of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, who said, “It seems to me there was no violation of anyone’s space, or physicality, other than the arrest itself.”
The arrest seems similar to the bogus detainment of six Flint residents at a recent town hall; where they were arrested for yelling, cursing, wearing hats, and asking government officials questions.
Detaining journalists is an increasing trend in America- many blame the Trump administration and his rhetoric concerning “opening up libel laws,” along with his banning of certain outlets from press conferences.
However, journalists covering the DAPL protests during the Obama administration were treated as criminals.
Journalists Arrested during NoDAPL Protests:
Jenni Monet, a reporter for Indian Country Today and the Center for Investigative Reporting, was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and engaging in a riot.
Amy Goodman with Democracy Now! was also charged with engaging in a riot after exposing private security unleashing attack dogs on protesters.
Jihan Hafiz of The Intercept was arrested and held for criminal trespassing.
Sara Lafleur-Vetter is a photojournalist who was working with The Guardian was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot.
Niko Georgiades, Chris Schiano, Jenn Schreiter, and Lorenzo Serna of Unicorn Riot were all charged with criminal trespassing. Serna was also charged with engaging in a riot.
Myron Dewey of Digital Smoke Signals faced stalking charges for using a drone- a charge that has a maximum of a year behind bars and a $2,000 fine.
Jahnny Lee is a filmmaker with the Sundance Institute was arrested and charged with obstruction of a government function.
Adam Schrader, a freelance journalist from New York, was arrested and charged with engaging in a riot, maintaining a public nuisance, and conspiracy to endanger by fire or explosives. The last of those is a felony charge.
Unrelated to the Standing Rock movement but happening at the same time was the arrest of Deia Schlosberg, a filmmaker and producer, who was arrested and charged with three felonies while covering a separate environmental story in North Dakota. She was charged with conspiracy to commit theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services, and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service. These charges combined carried 45 years maximum sentences.
One chilling comment was made from ND State Attorney Ladd Erickson concerning the arrest of journalist Amy Goodman: “She’s a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”
So, not immediately agreeing with the state’s side of the story automatically aligns you with protestors? It’s not the job of a journalist to ask permission before covering an event. It’s not a reporter’s duty to stay on the sidelines. For the purpose of keeping our state accountable to the people, it is the right and responsibility of the press to examine events and report the truth- be it from whatever position.
As corporate media ally themselves with the establishment and the rich and powerful, it’s up to independent journalists—and Truth Against The Machine—to put the interests of people first.
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