Letter to Missouri Police: News gathering is not a crime

Police officers work their way north on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., clearing the road with the use of tear gas and smoke bombs Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death turned violent Wednesday night, with some people lobbing Molotov cocktails and other objects at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

(WWLP) – Protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, and as the situation there remains tense, journalists are asking that police protect their rights to gather news, and to provide information in a timely manner. In a letter sent to the Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments, as well as the Missouri Highway Patrol, a collection of media companies and trade organizations are demanding that police do not detain journalists covering news of the unrest.

Reporters Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post were recently detained by police while they were at a McDonalds restaurant near the protests. The journalists claim that they were just charging their phones when they were handcuffed and harassed by the police, and denied answers as to why they were being placed in custody.

“This type of behavior is anathema to the First Amendment and to journalists everywhere. It must not continue and answers as to why it was allowed to happen in the first place must be forthcoming,” the letter states.

“Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes.”

The letter goes on to say that police have not been providing timely updates about Brown’s shooting; noting that it was not until Friday that Ferguson Police even released the name of the shooting policeman (Officer Darren Wilson).

LIN Media, the parent company of WWLP 22News is among the media organizations that signed onto the letter. See Below or click here to read it in its entirety.

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