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A crew from Al Jazeera America was setting up for a live shot in Ferguson, MO, around 10:30 last night, when police tear gas canisters landed near them. The network also says police fired rubber bullets in their direction and continued to shoot after the crew “clearly and repeatedly shouted ‘press.'”
They were setting up for a live shot for the international channel covering the latest in the violence surrounding the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
“Al Jazeera America is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story,” AJAM spokesperson Jocelyn Austin says. “Thankfully all three crew members are physically fine.”
The network wants the incident investigated.
- Related: TVSpy | Video of News Crew Hit With Tear Gas
Two other reporters covering the chaos were arrested last night. Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery says he was slammed into a soda machine, handcuffed and arrested. He was released later on the order of Ferguson’s police chief. The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly says an officer arresting him slammed his head against the glass at a restaurant near the site of the Brown shooting.
“RTDNA condemns the physical violence and unjustified arrest of the journalists, and demands authorities respect the rights of reporters covering the unfolding situation in Missouri,” RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender wrote to the city’s police chief this morning. After the jump, Cavender’s letter, which also went to the governor and the attorneys general of Missouri and the U.S…
Mr. Thomas Jackson
Chief of Police
City of Ferguson, MO
Dear Chief Jackson:
The police actions demonstrated last night, which resulted in the arrest and detainment of reporters Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, are unconscionable and must be stopped immediately.
Yesterday, the RTDNA, the nation’s largest professional association of electronic journalists, appealed to you for the cooperation of law enforcement as our members and other journalists perform their jobs to keep the public informed about the continuing volatile situation in Ferguson. Now, at least two of those same reporters have undergone police harassment and confinement while operating entirely lawfully. Prior to being taken into custody, Lowrey was illegally instructed to stop taking video of the situation and ordered to stop asking the officers questions about their actions. In the process, he was slammed into a soda machine and handcuffed. This is outrageous conduct on the part of the officers.
When informed of the events by another reporter, you ordered the release of the two and are quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying whoever arrested them was “probably somebody who didn’t know better.”
Frankly, they should know better. The journalistic community is demanding that you, other command officials and all law enforcement officers involved in this continuing situation respect the rights of reporters and others journalists to provide news coverage in Ferguson so long as they operate legally—which these two reporters were doing. Harassment and abuse of anyone in a similar situation cannot be accepted and must not be tolerated by you and others charged with maintaining the peace and security in Ferguson.
Cc: Governor Jay Nixon, State of Missouri
Attorney General Chris Koster, State of Missouri
Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice
Col. Ronald Replogle, Missouri State Highway Patrol