USA: Black journalists barred from covering BLM protests

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette management removed two prominent Black journalists from covering anti-racism protests sweeping the USA following the publication of a tweet they considered controversial.

Protesters raise their fists during a demonstration against racism and police brutality in Pittsburgh. Credits: MARANIE R. STAAB / AFP

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and US affiliate, The NewsGuild-CWA stand in solidarity with the two reporters and condemn the management's racist decisions.

A tweet by reporter Alexis Johnson's was deemed controversial by management and the following day senior editors at the barred her from covering the protests, alleging her post “violated the social media policy” of the company.


I was told it violated our social media policy. They kept calling it an educational conversation, but there was no warning, no ‘hey can you take the tweet down?’ By Monday morning, they had decided I would no longer be able to cover it (The BLM protests),” Alexis Johnson said in a press conference organized on Monday 8 June.

The decision caused a wave of solidarity among the Pittsburg Post-Gazette staff and union members. Dozens of TNG union members published Alexis’ tweet on their Twitter accounts adding the hashtag #IStandWithAlexis. According to the TNG, management began retaliating against those who supported Alexis shortly afterwards.

Management removed protest stories written by journalists who stood in solidarity with Alexis without explanation. Senior editors also told photojournalist Michael Santiago, who showed support to Alexis, that he was to be removed from protest coverage without explanation. The two are among a small number of Black journalists at the paper.


On the same day, Post-Gazette Reporter Joshua Axelrod, a white man, said the management told him he “made a legitimate journalistic mistake on social media” after using a vulgar slang word to refer to a suspected looter.

He was just asked to delete the tweet and was not barred from covering the protests, causing him to denounced the different treatment he received compared to how the management handled his colleagues' situations.

I was initially treated in a much more lenient manner by newsroom management than Alexis Johnson or Michael Santiago were and was only taken off protest coverage retroactively,” Axelrod said.

In response to management’s actions, NewsGuild members launched a protest campaign seeking Support for Post-Gazette Black Journalists. 

There is only one respectable thing for Post-Gazette managers to do: apologize to Alexis, remove the ban they placed on her coverage and let talented, dedicated, loyal PG journalists do their life’s work to the benefit of our paper, our readers, our community, and our democracy”, the union said.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Stripping Black journalists from covering a pivotal historical event in the US is not only against their professional rights but against the citizens’ right to be informed and against media plurality. The IFJ stands in solidarity with the journalists affected and condemns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette management's racist decisions. We urge the management to apologize”.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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