Journalists Concerned About Convention Arrests

The Society of Professional Journalists expressed "outrage" over arrests at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Last week, Asa Eslocker, a producer with ABC News, was arrested while trying to shoot video on a public sidewalk outside a Denver hotel, according to ABC. He was trying to talk to Democrats leaving a private meeting as part of new piece on corporate lobbyists and donors. ABC's lawyers asked for those charges to be dropped, but an ABC spokesman said that as far as he knew, that had not happened.

And according to the Web Site for Democracy Now! -- a syndicated TV/radio show carried on noncommercial stations, Dish Network, DirecTV and the Internet -- host Amy Goodman and two show producers were released from police custody.

They were arrested Monday while covering protests outside of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.

Goodman said she was arrested after she tried to question police about their arrest of producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were arrested on suspicion of rioting. Although released, they still face potential felony riot charges, while Goodman was charged with obstruction of the legal process and interfering with a peace officer.

In a statement out of Atlanta, where the SPJ is holding its annual conference, president Clint Brewer said the group was not condemning the actions of police in maintaining public safety when the demonstrations became violent, but it was "disturbed" that the police "blurred the line between protestors and journalists" -- a line he suggested should not have been hard to distinguish.

“SPJ doesn’t object to the police stopping violence," he said. "Rather, we are merely alarmed by the disconcerting trend of journalists being treated as if they are a threat to public safety when they are clearly fulfilling their roles as professional reporters.”

The SPJ said the incidents in Denver and Minneapolis "represent an unacceptable infringement of the rights of journalists and, ultimately, a disservice to the public."

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.