UPDATE II: This is not going away any time soon. Capital New York reports that a New York Times attorney and representatives from major media outlets met with NYPD chiefs to discuss abuses. Stay tuned…
UPDATE: Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser has reinforced the city’s arrogance with an odd email splitting hairs over who was “credentialed” among the arrested. But even by his own account 4 “official” reporters were arrested. His twitter account is @stuloeser. Feel free to congratulate him on the excellent job he’s doing to promote free speech.
By Fred Gates
We’ve all seen gripping news stories about reporters arrested and held without cause — usually in some dictatorship. We all breathe a collective sigh of relief when they are finally released. We also see it as an indictment of the countries involved and their intolerance of a free press.
So if it ever happened here it would be a huge deal.
Well, not so much.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s crackdown by Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD on protestors camping in Zuccotti Park, this happened not once but over 10 times — to people with press credentials from national, foreign, and local outlets, even blogs. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Bloomberg also tried to imposed a media freeze-out: keeping the press barricaded blocks away from the action and even denying the use of airspace above the park to press helicopters. The excuse? It was for their own safety.
As if the gravity of the situation would somehow suck people out of a helicopter. Or something.
The dedicated members of the press who figured out how to get inside the frozen area were in for more surprises: they would be arrested without cause, despite identifying themselves as press. This action can only be bad for the Mayor’s image, and will most likely result in lawsuits. It has already resulted in universal condemnation from writer’s groups, city councilmen, unions, and pretty much anyone who knows what the US constitution is all about.
Here’s an example by The Society of Professional Journalists:
SPJ calls for all charges against these journalists to be dropped and for greater care by police to avoid arresting or otherwise obstructing journalists who are simply and clearly doing their jobs.
In these recent 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.
But where is the press?
A Google News search turns up a smattering of stories, mostly local, about this outrage against the press and the 1st amendment. Sure, this is barely 24 hours old, but one would think this would be a story major news outlets would run with. Instead, they demonstrate cowardice, denial, or a fear of seeming anti-police that is truly disheartening. A completely non-offensive comment I wrote on a New York Times story asking the reporter why he never mentioned this was not approved. Is this the current state of our “free” press and free speech today? Looks like it.
Consider just how stupid it is to arrest someone with a camera crew. Think about that one. Well, don’t think about it… you can just WATCH it. This seems pretty typical of the stories I have heard so far — notice the reporter (working for the New York Times) does nothing to provoke this, and clearly identifies himself to police. No go:
Sigh. Insert obligatory “this is America, dammit!” comment here. Or something.
Here’s a list of the reporters and photographers arrested, taken from a excellent overview article at The Atlantic Wire:
• Karen Matthews, Associated Press reporter
• Seth Wenig, Associated Press photographer
• Matthew Lysiak, New York Daily News
• Julie Walker, NPR
• Jared Malsin, Blogger for the Local East Village at The New York Times (seen above)
• Patrick Hedlund, DNAinfo.com News Editor
• Paul Lomax, freelance photographer for DNAinfo.com
• Doug Higginbotham, freelance video journalist working for TV New Zealand
• An unidentified Vanity Fair correspondent
• An unidentified Agance France Presse photographer
Most of these folks have twitter accounts that you could direct your own questions to. The bigger question is simple: why has the American press basically ignored this? The city is playing fast and loose with 1st amendment guarantees, actively trying to block reporters from being able to report what is happening at Occupy Wall Street AND playing “catch and release” (no one was charged or detained for more than 24 hours as far as I can tell) with reporters who dare to try to get close to the action.
The MSM acts like it never happened. In doing so it gets a little less relevant each day.