ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Local authorities in St. Paul announced today that they will not prosecute journalists who were arrested on misdemeanor charges during the Republican National Convention earlier this month.It's crappy that the arrests were made in the first place, and that the St. Paul police acted in such a derisive and abusive manner toward journalists who were only doing their jobs, and I think that it's important to note that dropping the charges is barely a first step toward making this right, but at least the journalists involved won't have this hanging over their heads. And kudos to FreePress.net--a recent addition to our blogroll as a result of this story from back in during the convention--for really being proactive and out front on this from the beginning. We need more people like them.
"This is an important first step, but many questions remain," said Nancy Doyle Brown from Twin Cities Media Alliance. "We still need answers about why and how journalists got swept up in these arrests in the first place. And more than anything else, we need to ensure that this never happens again. We’ll never know how many important stories never got told because their authors were behind bars, not in the streets."
Nearly two dozen reporters were arrested during the four-day event, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and two of her producers, Associated Press reporters, student journalists, and local TV photographers, among others. Other journalists were pepper-sprayed, and reporters with I-Witness were held at gunpoint during a "pre-emptive" police raid aimed at disrupting protesters. The press release from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's office noted that the city's attorney will use a "broad definition and verification to identify journalists who were caught up in mass arrests during the convention."
"We’re pleased that the St. Paul authorities ultimately acted to uphold the rights of all journalists -- including those citizens using blogs, cheap cameras and cell phones to report news as it happens," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, the national media reform organization. "Our task now is to ensure that our press remains free to report on the events, issues and stories that matter to our country, our communities, and our democracy."