Ferguson Police Chief: Media Not a Target

"The media are not a target." That was the message from Ferguson, Mo., police chief Thomas Jackson in a press conference Thursday (Aug. 14) following a night of violence in the wake of the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a Ferguson policeman.

Al Jazeera America and a Washington Post reporter were among those journalists who reported being roughed up, intimidated, detained, or seemingly targeted for tear gas attacks while trying to cover the violence.

The police have said some in the crowd were throwing Molotov cocktails. Some protestors have said the police have been the aggressors, according to CNN. This police force appears to have escalated the violence, said CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “ I have developed considerable skepticism about what I have heard from this police department. It seems to me this police department has engaged in overreaction.”

Jackson also said that the police were trying to combat violence and bring order and suggested those who did not want to be in the middle of the violence should get out of the crowd. Jackson has acknowledged that the situation is a "powder keg."

Missouri Gov. Jay Dixon told the media that changes in the "tone" of the response to the violence would be announced at a 3 p.m. press conference.

The President also spoke about Ferguson Thursday, calling for "peace" in a town wracked by violence.

The President also said that police “should not be arresting or bullying journalists for doing their jobs.”

Attorney General Eric Holder added later that acts of violence by members of the public can't be tolerated, but neither can police overreact. "[T]he law enforcement response to these demonstrations must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them," he said, "and journalists must not be harassed or prevented from covering a story that needs to be told."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.