Political Speech

Journalist Arrests Threaten Freedom of Press

Police officers
On 20 January 2017, various demonstrations took place in Washington, D.C., to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the U.S.

Thomas Hughes and Jodie Ginsburg write that “Journalists are facing an unprecedented and unrelenting crackdown on their work that appears to come more from the playbook of dictatorial demagogues than constitutional caretakers. This crackdown is at its most visible when it intersects with protest.”

 January 18, 2018: Felony Charges Against 129 Protesters Dropped But Journalist Aaron Cantú Still Faces Charges 

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has whittled its case down to 59 defendants arrested during last year’s inauguration day protests, including journalist Aaron Cantú. “The government will be filing motions to dismiss without prejudice the indictment against the other remaining 129 defendants so that it can focus its efforts on this smaller, core group that we believe is most responsible for the destruction and violence that took place on Inauguration Day,” said a department spokesperson.

Huffington Post Cantú Motion to Dismiss Charges
December 21, 2017: Charges Dropped Against Alexei Wood

Alexei Wood, one of six defendants on trial on felony charged stemming from election day protests, was found not guilty at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. “In these times of press persecution, I feel this is an important victory,” said Mr. Woods lawyer, Brett E. Cohen.

New York Times
November 14, 2017: Journalists Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood Await Trail Results In Rioting Case

Two of the nine journalists arrested during the inauguration day protests (of the 234 arrested in total) – Aaron Cantú, a staff reporter at The Santa Fe Reporter in New Mexico who worked as a freelancer in January, and Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist and videographer based in San Antonio – were charged with various felony charges related to rioting. Both men await trial results in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and if convicted, may face decades long sentences. Wood posted a Facebook Live video that showed him running with protestors which may be used against him. Freedom of press supporters says journalists cannot be charged for covering events. Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North America program coordinator for Committee to Protect Journalists, told the New York Times, “Criminal laws should require criminal intent, and so if a journalist is covering the story, that does not constitute criminal intent.”

New York Times The Hill US News & World Report April 27, 2017 Felony Rioting – Superseding Indictment
October 2, 2017:  CJR Discusses What News Outlets Do When Journalists Get Arrested

When St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk was arrested for covering the September 17th protest after the decision to acquit Jason Stockley, the white ex-police officer who fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011, editors responded aggressively.

July 26, 2017: Protestors Phones Searched In Inauguration Arrests

The Daily Beast reports that “prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against” protestors charged for rioting during Inauguration Day protests. Some of those arrested were journalists who might also be caught up in the sweep.

Daily Beast