As Attacks on Protesters and Journalists Increase, Coverage of Communities and Police Needs to Change
WASHINGTON — The weekend saw escalating police violence against protesters and reporters at nationwide demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd and systemic racial injustices. There has been an unprecedented number of attacks against journalists at many of these protests as law-enforcement officers have specifically targeted those engaged in First-Amendment protected newsgathering and reporting. This mirrors the ways police are targeting those engaged in First-Amendment protected protest.
President Trump has egged on the police crackdown in a series of recent tweets, including one that labels news outlets covering the protests as the “Enemy of the People.” Reporters and researchers at the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker are investigating more than 100 separate incidents in which officers attacked reporters, permanently blinding a photojournalist in one eye and causing other grave injuries.
Free Press News Voices Organizing Manager Alicia Bell made the following statement:
“Free Press believes in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and is committed to protecting the rights and safety of protesters and the reporters who cover these demonstrations. It bears repeating: The First Amendment prevents law enforcement from silencing the voices of protesters and from beating back the journalists who seek to share their concerns with the world.
“It’s not enough to cover the protests via the official podiums of local police departments and politicians. Reporters need to be free to turn their cameras and microphones toward the local organizers who have long engaged in the fight for Black dignity alongside those who are now taking to the streets with legitimate grievances against a system that devalues the lives of our people.
“Rather than allowing law enforcement to control the narrative and vilify Black people, as has been the case too often in the past, journalists have the right to mingle among protesters to document and air their perspectives.
“This moment underscores the importance of deep relationship building between newsrooms and communities. Newsrooms must replace police ride-alongs with community-listening sessions and other intentional tactics for shifting power.
“Free Press supports the ongoing calls for urgent transformation of a system that puts Black people at risk. Coverage of protests like the ones unfolding across the country is essential to informing the public, exposing official violence and responding to our communities’ needs. Free Press is working with allies to reimagine crime-justice reporting. We’re eager to extend our work with newsrooms committed to deeper engagement — and ultimately, to shifting power away from the anti-Black status quo and toward a shared vision of the future.”