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Open season in the free press: journalists who are the target of attacks while American protests are raging

MINNEAPOLIS (REUTERS) – On Friday (May 29), viewers watched as CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested on live television during a protest following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Saturday, when protesters and police collided across the country, reporter Kaitlin Rust of Louisville, Kentucky, WAVE News local station yelled into the air, “I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!” while cameras caught her and her crew being shot and peppered by local police.

Over a three-day period, press violence-tracking organizations documented about two dozen acts of violence, including a Saturday night incident in Minneapolis in which Reuters journalist Julio-Cesar Chavez and Reuters security adviser Rodney Seward were beaten and injured by rubber bullets.

From Los Angeles to Minneapolis to New York, which resembled isolated attacks on the press during political rallies and protests of the past few years, grew as confidence in the media was low for nearly a decade, some media experts said.

“It’s an extremely scary place to be and not a place where journalists have felt in this country since 1968,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, referring to journalists harassed on the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

“The numerous, targeted attacks experienced by journalists reporting protests across the country over the past two nights are both reprehensible and clear violations of the First Amendment,” he said.

Freedom of expression and the press are enshrined, inter alia, in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The attacks, which take place in the context of the anti-media rhetoric of US President Donald Trump, are targeting media organizations across the political spectrum.

Leland Vittert, a Fox News correspondent experienced in war zones, and his crew were attacked by protesters near the White House on Friday after they were identified as Fox News associates.

“It’s been the most scared I’ve been since I caught a crowd converting us in Tahrir Square (in Cairo, Egypt),” Vittert said in an interview with Reuters on Sunday.

Vittert recalled how public perception of the media deteriorated similarly during his time in the Middle East.

“We saw that transition take place where those we reported about were not happy to be there to tell our stories, but to see us as potential targets,” he said. “And now we’re seeing that same shift in America that’s terrifying.”

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has regularly hit the media.

“There is a campaign of defamation of the media by President Trump,” said Courtney Radsch, director of the journalists’ protection committee.

Radsch said this also happens because protesters “want to control their story too. Everyone wants to go straight to the audience with their version of events.”

Reuters security adviser Rodney Seward will be treated by a physician in Minneapolis, USA on May 30, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

On Sunday, the President wrote on Twitter: “The Lamestream Media are doing everything they can to fuel hatred and anarchy. As long as everyone understands what they are doing, they are FAKE NEWS and really bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through it GREATNESS! “

Some Trump supporters in the past have watered down the response to the media and the role of the president in it, saying the media has eroded its own credibility with partisan reporting.

“He (Trump) isn’t the only trigger,” said Brown. But, “If he stopped attacking journalists, it would help a lot.”

Watching journalists arrested and attacked on television sends a message to viewers that there are no repercussions for the violence, media experts say.

The Minnesota governor apologized for arresting CNN journalists, and Louisville police apologized if Rust was classified as a journalist. No action has yet been taken against the agents involved.

Fox and CNN both condemned the actions taken against their journalists and other members of the media.

A Reuters spokeswoman said the news organization strongly objects to police firing rubber bullets at her crew in Minneapolis and is addressing the situation with authorities.

“It was clear that both our reporter and our security adviser were members of the press and did not threaten public policy. Journalists should be able to report the news without fear of harassment or harm, “the spokeswoman said in a statement.

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