As demonstrations exploded across the United States, journalists have been assaulted, pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested on live television
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In the last several days, as demonstrations exploded across the United States, journalists have been assaulted, pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested on live television.
The scale of abuses is unprecedented in recent American history, and CPJ has swung into action to support journalists covering the protests and to hold accountable those who abuse their authority and violate press freedom.
As an organization of journalists, CPJ’s first order of business is always to gather the facts and fully report events.
There have been as many as 90 separate incidents involving attacks on journalists covering the protests.
In partnership with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an online database and resource which CPJ helped establish at the beginning of 2017, we are investigating every single case.
Over the weekend, we were in touch with 30 journalists who said they experienced abuse. Most shocking were the accounts from journalists who said they were deliberately targeted by police.
A journalist for Minnesota Public Radio had a gun pointed at her head by police who refused to lower their weapons after she identified herself as a member of the press. Another journalist, who was tear-gassed and targeted with rubber bullets, said police “were specifically shooting at head level.”
In interviews with The Washington Post, Reuters, BBC, NPR, USA Today, The New York Times, and many, many others, we shared our outrage at this frontal assault on press freedom.
Our statement condemning the assaults was issued on Saturday, and shared widely on social media.
While we are pushing for greater restraint and accountability from police across the country, we are also putting events in context, based on CPJ research and reporting, which shows that covering protests in the United States has been a dangerous assignment for some time due to the adoption of aggressive, military-style policing, and the mounting hostility of protesters towards journalists.
CPJ Emergencies, established in 2016 with a mandate to help keep journalists safe, has been pushing out detailed safety advisories, with information about everything from responding to aggressive protesters to dealing with tear gas.
Recognizing that journalists are dealing with the additional risk of COVID-19, we also provided updated guidance on Sunday about covering the protests while social distancing.
The Emergencies team is coordinating legal and safety support with organizations on the ground as well as with media outlets to make sure that all journalists have access to the support they need.
We have also added an “Ask an Expert” feature on our website, which allows journalists or newsrooms to speak directly with our safety team.
CPJ is working with our press freedom partners to engage police departments, mayors, and other local officials across the country to improve practices, ensure accountability, and launch investigations into police misconduct when necessary.
We are engaging with local and national leaders, urging them to express support for press freedom and the work of the media. And we will continue to work with journalists and media organizations to provide the resources and guidance they need to cover the protests safely.
All of this work is made possible by your support, for which we are most grateful.
All the best,