Wednesday, November 16, 2011

John Tomasic: Watchdog targets mayors -- Stop harassing journalists covering Occupy protests

Watchdog targets mayors: Stop harassing journalists covering Occupy protests
By John Tomasic
The Colorado Independent

As has been widely reported, police crackdowns on the Occupy movement in cities across the country have extended beyond the protesters to include attacks on journalists as a way to stanch news of police action. Ten reporters were arrested in New York when police cleared Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, including reporters for the AP, NPR, and the New York Daily News, according to watchdog organization Free Press. The organization announced today it has launched a campaign “targeted at mayors around the country to demand they honor the 1st Amendment and drop all charges against journalists.”

“If the mayor of our country’s largest city thinks protecting the press means silencing them, we’re in big trouble,” wrote Free Press Program Director Josh Stearns at the organization’s website. Stearns has been tracking harassment and arrests of journalists covering the Occupy movement for the last two months.

From the Free Press campaign web page:

In what appears to have been a coordinated effort to block coverage of the raid, many journalists said they were barred from reporting the police action. Ten reporters were also arrested, another was put in a choke hold and others described extensive police harassment.

This kind of police response is happening all over the country. Police harassment of the press has been reported during “Occupy” protests in Chicago, Denver, Oakland, Portland and beyond.

We need to send the message loud and clear to mayors across the country: They must drop all charges and publicly commit to protecting press freedoms in their cities. This is especially true for Mayor Bloomberg, who took full responsibility for the NYPD’s actions.

Speak out now: Tell Mayor Bloomberg and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to publicly commit to protecting journalists covering all protests and police actions. You can also call Mayor Bloomberg at 212-639-9675 to speak out against the most recent arrests of journalists.

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