The Greater Charlotte Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is urging police and city administrators in North Carolina to use care and discretion as they respond to protest demonstrations that media reporters are covering.
According to the Associated Press, at least six credentialed journalists have been arrested or detained recently while covering protests in Chapel Hill and New York. Reporters have also been arrested in Atlanta, Nashville, Milwaukee and Richmond, Va.
“Unrest in our country is spurring protests, and it will continue to do so,” said Frank Barrows, the Charlotte chapter president and former managing editor of the Charlotte Observer. “The Democratic National Convention next year in Charlotte is apt to have many demonstrations accompanying it. So, especially now, it is critical that police throughout North Carolina develop the capacity to perceive — particularly in heated moments — the difference between protesters, who can sometimes be unruly and occasionally even break laws, and journalists legitimately on the scene to cover the news as a function of democracy.”
SPJ, a century-old national organization with more than 9,000 members, has called for all charges against the journalists recently arrested to be dropped. In those instances, the journalists were either wearing press credentials or explained to police that they were reporters covering the protests. They were clearly exercising the constitutional right of a free press.
“We know that as protests escalate it may be difficult for police to distinguish bystanders from participants, but it is clear now that many journalists have been erroneously arrested without cause,” SPJ national president John Ensslin said. “These errors must be rectified immediately.”
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.
For more information on the Greater Charlotte Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, contact Barrows.