That was fast. Just yesterday, YourNewsWire.com released a lengthy article about the James Riley case. Riley is a journalist for the New York Times who is being threatened by the United States Department of Justice if he does not testify about a CIA source (something he, as a journalist, is legally not required to do). An astonishing 14 Pulitzer Prize winning journalists released a joint statement condemning the DOJ’s harassment of Riley. Below are some excerpts from the article published yesterday on this site:
“The text of the first amendment is simple, yet powerful. It reads: “Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Freedom of speech and press.”
“The very things that so many countries across the globe forbid, yet we promote fearlessly and protect aggressively. However, something very unsettling has been brewing since 2008 that is putting into question the very validity of our first amendment rights – and could potentially allow the government to jail American journalists for not agreeing with them.”
Although Riley’s case is not over, something immensely disturbing happened last night: according to a report published on CNN.com, not one, but two journalists were arrested and held while simply recharging their computers at a local McDonalds while covering the Michael Browning shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The report says, “Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post said on Twitter that they were arrested while they were doing work and then released within roughly 45 minutes. Neither was charged. ‘This was very unnecessary,’ Lowery said in a telephone interview. He said he was never told why he and Reilly were detained, except that they were ‘trespassing’ by being inside the fast-food restaurant.”
The arrests came amid extreme tensions between local authorities and reporters, however last night’s arrests marked the first. Riley added in a Facebook pose, “A police officer in full riot gear purposefully banged my head against the window on the way out and sarcastically apologized.”
Time Magazine author James Poniewozik put it best in a few choice statements. “The arrests and tear-gassing of journalists in an American city is an outrage—in part because everyone is the media now.” With our First Amendment rights being ripped out from under our noses, the authorities in Ferguson, MO are doing a wonderful job of expediting the process.
Poniewozik goes on to say, “Lowery and Reilly were obviously not the only people taken into custody that night. Others in the streets were tear-gassed and hit by rubber bullets as police met the protesters, outfitted in SWAT gear and accompanied by snipers on armored vehicles. Nor were they they the only journalists targeted: here you can see footage of an Al Jazeera America crew fleeing their video equipment after getting hit with tear gas, after which a SWAT vehicle pulls up and police take down the camera and lights.
A SWAT team. To take out cameras. In the United States of America. Because you know how dangerous it is when people start pointing those things around.”
Poniewozik makes an excellent, if not horrifying point, while not exactly saying the words: what is happening is so awful for this country and everything it is supposedly founded on is eroding faster than we can keep up with. The other problem? It seems many American’s are unaware that Ferguson,MO could be their town, their homes, and their streets – even their video cameras.
Below is the video of Al Jazeera journalists being gassed:
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