28 August 202016:12

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the suspense of restrictions on the use of force against journalists in the United States

1306-28-08-2020

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We are concerned about the decision of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to temporarily lift a lower court’s preliminary injunction on federal law enforcement officers’ use of force, threats and dispersal orders against journalists documenting Portland protests.

We do not regard as convincing the US judges’ argument that the injunction, which was adopted in late July in a lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), allegedly prevents law enforcement personnel from reliably maintaining law and order because it is too difficult for them to distinguish peaceful citizens, including members of the press, from violent demonstrators.

The decision has created a dangerous precedent by legalising police violence towards journalists, which contradicts not only the US legislation, in particular the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but also the universally recognised democratic principles when it comes to freedom of the media and unrestricted activities of journalists.

As of August 2020, human rights organisations have reported over 700 cases of unjustified arrests and assaults by law enforcement personnel against members of the press who are covering protests in the United States. This police violence is unacceptable.

We urge the US authorities, acting in accordance with Washington’s international obligations in the sphere of human rights and freedom of the press, to conduct a thorough investigation into all such violent actions against journalists and to create conditions for members of the press to exercise their professional duty.

We hope that the concerned international authorities and human rights organisations will react accordingly and will provide an objective assessment of US law enforcement officers’ actions.

 

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