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As an organization whose core mission includes protecting freedom of the press, the American Society of News Editors is especially disturbed by the events taking place this week in Ferguson, Missouri. From police physically assaulting citizens engaged in peaceful protest to arresting without cause reporters from The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, it is clear that there is a concerted, top-down effort to restrict the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and the press.
"From the beginning of this situation, the police have made conscious decisions to restrict information and images coming from Ferguson," said ASNE President David Boardman. "Of course, these efforts largely have been unsuccessful, as the nation and the world are still seeing for themselves the heinous actions of the police. For every reporter they arrest, every image they block, every citizen they censor, another will still write, photograph and speak."
ASNE acknowledges that there has been illegal violence and looting by some members of the public and that law enforcement must respond appropriately. But we remind the police and the nation that that speaking out in protest is not a crime, reporting on that protest is not a crime and taking photographs of it is not a crime. Violating the civil rights of citizens by restricting these activities is a crime. We further call on the U.S. Department of Justice to take any and all appropriate action to protect the First Amendment rights of everyone involved.
NABJ statementThe National Association of Black Journalists strongly condemns the arrests of Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday. Lowery, who is an NABJ member, and Reilly, are in Missouri covering the circumstances surrounding the killing of Michael Brown and the ensuing unrest.
Lowery and Reilly have stated they were working in a McDonald's when police ordered them and others to leave the restaurant. Lowery and Reilly say they then were assaulted and detained by police and released shortly thereafter without being charged with a crime.
Lowery tweeted, “Officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them.”
“Journalists have a constitutionally protected right to work without the government interference,” NABJ President Bob Butler said. “We call on -- and fully expect -- the authorities to investigate what appears to be a violation of the First Amendment and to hold the officers involved to account, if necessary."
Lowery received NABJ’s Emerging Journalist of the Year award at the organization’s annual convention on Aug. 2. He is also a former member of NABJ’s Board of Directors.