USA: IFJ demands end to deliberate targeting of journalists

The IFJ has demanded an end to the deliberate, outrageous and systematic targeting of journalists covering protests in the US, as the toll of those injured, shot, beaten and arrested continues to grow. Joining journalists’ unions from around the world the IFJ accused the US authorities of crude censorship and a use of excessive force in an attempt to stop journalists scrutinizing police responses to the protest movement which has swept the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by the police.

Protestors and media personnel run to take cover as police start firing tear gas and rubber bullets near the 5th police precinct following a demonstration to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Clashes broke out and major cities imposed curfews as America began another night of unrest Saturday with angry demonstrators ignoring warnings from President Donald Trump that his government would stop violent protests over police brutality "cold." CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

Dozens of assaults on journalists have been documented over 4 days of protests including many at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Two journalists have each lost an eye and others were shot, pepper sprayed and arrested.

Linda Tirado, a freelance journalist and mother-of-two has been left blind in one eye after being struck by a rubber bullet or marking round at a protest in Minneapolis on Friday while photographing the rally.

In Minneapolis on Saturday, reporters and photojournalists, clearly identifiable were fired on by police and were forced to rush to cover for their safety. One reporter said she had been hit in the arm.

In a second incident in Minneapolis, a crew from the Nine network were detained at gunpoint by police. While in their car approaching a roadblock, a police officer pulled out a weapon and got them to get out of their car. They were searched, one member of the crew handcuffed and then after presenting their media credentials they were eventually set free.

A CNN reporter and crew were arrested live on air despite clearly identifying themselves as journalists and showing press credentials.

A British photographer, Adam Gray, was arrested in New York and held in a cell with 70 other detainees, despite clearly showing his press credentials.

Videoed incidents show police deliberately targeting the media. Working journalists, clearly identifiable, have been shot at with a variety of munitions.

In Minneapolis, four members of a news crew was arrested after state police said it had to confirm they were “members of the media”. The news crew was “live to air” at the time, using its camera and microphone and the journalists have their credentials displayed in plain sight.

In Chicago, a reporter and his crew was forced to lie on the ground after identifying themselves half a dozen six times as “press” and showing their media credentials.
Having complied with police instructions and continuing to lie prone, a police officer shot pepper spray in the reporter’s face.

Journalists have been reported injured in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, Detroit and Denver.

Protestors have also targeted journalists

One assaulted a reporter and tried to seize her microphone while she was live on air. In Washington DC, a news crew was forced to flee after a large crowd discovered the network they worked for.

In Atlanta, the CNN headquarters was subject to physical attack by a large crowd.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “From the President to the law enforcement authorities it is time to stop the deliberate targeting of journalists. Whipping up hatred of the media has consequences and we are now witnessing the outcome – journalists shot, permanently disabled, forced to flee, being arrested and beaten. The authorities, desperate to avoid legitimate scrutiny, have resorted to threatening and shooting the messenger.

“This war on media freedom and journalists’ rights must stop. Those who target and attack journalists must be held to account”.