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Government intimidation of media surrounding RNC condemned

Story about the over 60,000 letters written to St. Paul elected officials, asking them to drop all charges against journalists arrested around the RNC: Letters Protesting Journalist Arrests at RNC Delivered Today in St. Paul. By Dave Astor. Published: September 05, 2008

Another great story about the need for freedom of the press:

RNC: Media Intimidation Condemned
September 4, 2008
Jeffrey Allen, OneWorld US

MINNEAPOLIS, Sep 4 (OneWorld) – Police and local and federal officials in St. Paul, Minnesota are under fire from independent media groups for their crackdown on reporters at this week’s Republican National Convention.

Television and radio host Amy Goodman was one of several journalists arrested this week.  “We are concerned that police in St. Paul prevented journalists from covering a breaking story,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon on Tuesday. “We urge authorities to drop any pending charges and allow journalists to continue with their work.”

The New York-based group, which monitors media suppression around the world, condemned the arrest of four journalists who were documenting the confrontational end to an otherwise peaceful antiwar protest on the opening day of the Convention…

“It was very clear who I was,” Goodman told media after her release. “I had all my credentials hanging from my neck. ‘Look — these are my credentials,’ I said. A Secret Service agent walked up to me and said, ‘Oh really?’ and ripped my credentials off my neck.”

Kouddous told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the same agent also confiscated his daily press pass.

Distinguishing Between Press and Protesters

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists called on police and local and federal officials to “respect the First Amendment right to free speech and free press of journalists doing their job.”

“In this era of new technology and broader participation in citizen and independent journalism, it may become increasingly difficult for police to tell journalists from those who are not,” the group said. “But police must be aware it is their duty to try, and to respect the role of the press in a democracy. When the media has credentials, as was the case with Goodman and other journalists arrested, the police should have a much easier job.”

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), meeting this week in Atlanta, said: “Police have a duty to protect and serve the public. So, too, do journalists serve the public interest. SPJ doesn’t object to the police stopping violence. Rather, we are merely alarmed by the disconcerting trend of journalists being treated as if they are a threat to public safety, when they are clearly fulfilling their roles as professional reporters.

Media Intimidation Alleged

The nonpartisan media reform group Free Press has said Monday’s arrests were part of “an orchestrated round up of independent [media] covering the Republican National Convention.”

Police raid the I-Witness Video home. Police also raided a home where independent journalists were staying over the weekend before the Convention began. The journalists were working for a media organization known for documenting police crackdowns against protesters, especially during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

I-Witness Video’s documentary work helped to get charges dropped against over 400 people arrested during the 2004 Convention, according to Elizabeth Press, who works with the group and was in the house that was raided over the weekend. Police surrounded the house for several hours on Sunday, while waiting for a warrant to arrive…

50,000 Demand Press Freedom

“We condemn the arrest and harassment of journalists before and during the Republican National Convention,” said Free Press executive director Josh Silver. “We call on the mayor, district attorney, and police chief to rein in the overly aggressive — and even violent — tactics of law enforcement. Arresting and detaining journalists for doing their jobs is a gross violation of free speech and freedom of the press.”

In just over 2 days, Silver’s group has gathered over 50,000 names on a petition to the mayor’s office, the Republican National Convention Host Committee, and other local officials demanding an end to the aggressive and violent tactics used against journalists in recent days.

“Reporting by independent journalists is the only way for the American public to learn the full story, and they must be free to do their jobs without intimidation,” Silver added.

This article is part of OneWorld.net’s continuing coverage of Campaign ’08, where you can find more on where the candidates stand on the issues, what everyday Americans are saying about what matters to them, and share your thoughts on the political system, the campaigns, the candidates, and your rights.

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