Linda Tirado, a freelance journalist who permanently lost vision in her left eye after being hit with a projectile, is suing the city of Minneapolis and various law enforcement officials for her injuries, as well as for violating her Fourth and First Amendment rights.
The complaint cites six incidents of arrests, 14 incidents of the use of physical force, five incidents of the use of chemical agents, and five incidents of threatening language and gestures, made by police officers against reporters, often without warning.
Journalists have long understood the risks involved in covering protests, but the events of the past weekend point to a worrisome shift: journalists are not only finding themselves caught in the middle of violence; they are increasingly becoming targets.
Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has threatened to retaliate against a reporter for sharing an email sent to him by Pence’s office asking members of the press to wear a mask during an official visit to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
On April 28th, Sean Hannity, a Fox News host, threatened to sue The New York Times over a column that linked a Brooklyn bar owner’s death from coronavirus to Hannity’s comments that downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic.
“The public health crisis provides authoritarian governments with an opportunity to implement the notorious ‘shock doctrine’ – to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.
Reporters Committee Attorney and author of the 2019 Press Freedom Report Sarah Matthews explains why borders and protests remain risky for journalists, as well as how data collected in the US Press Freedom Tracker drives her advocacy work.
The report cites data collected by Freedom House, which shows that, at a minimum, 26 countries have enacted or introduced laws and government rules restricting online media and journalistic access in the name of controlling “fake news.”