NEW YORK (AP) — A photographer for the Getty agency and two German reporters were among the latest journalists arrested while covering protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.
At least 10 journalists have been arrested or detained since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was killed Aug. 9 by officer Darren Wilson. Reporters for CNN, Al Jazeera America and other outlets say they have been harassed or physically threatened.
Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, in charge of security in Ferguson, said Tuesday that members of the media have had to be asked repeatedly to return to the sidewalks, because of safety concerns. In some cases, he said, it was not immediately clear who was a reporter, but once that was established, police acted properly.
“In the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” Johnson said at a news conference. “And yes, if I see somebody with a $50,000 camera on their shoulder, I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around, and all you have is a cellphone because you’re from a small media outlet. Some of you may just have a camera around your neck.”
The arrests and detainments, which have ranged from several minutes to several hours, have been widely criticized: President Obama said last week that police “should not be bullying or arresting” reporters for merely doing their jobs. Last Friday, 48 American media organizations, including The Associated Press, sent a letter to law enforcement officials in Ferguson, criticizing the treatment of reporters.
“Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes,” the letter read. “The actions in Ferguson demonstrate a lack of training among local law enforcement in the protections required by the First Amendment, as well as the absence of respect for the role of newsgatherers. We implore police leadership to rectify this failing to ensure that these incidents do not occur again.”
Overall, at least two people were shot and at least 57 arrested during protests overnight Monday, authorities said.
On Tuesday, Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept, an online investigative publication, tweeted that he was arrested and jailed, then released several hours later. Getty photographer Scott Olson said Monday that he was arrested “for just doing my job” and eventually released. As with previous arrests of journalists, no charges were filed against Olson, who by Monday night was back shooting photos.
Two German reporters were arrested and detained for three hours Monday. Conservative German daily Die Welt said correspondent Ansgar Graw and reporter Frank Herrmann, who writes for German regional papers, were arrested after allegedly failing to follow police instructions to vacate an empty street. They said they followed police orders.
On Sunday night, Sports Illustrated reporter Robert Klemko tweeted that he was tear-gassed, handcuffed and then released a few minutes later. The Telegraph’s Rob Crilly and the Financial Times’ Neil Munshi also reported that they were briefly detained Sunday.
Last week, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post said they were handcuffed and put into a police van after officers came into a McDonald’s where they were doing some work. The Washington Post reported that Lowery said he was slammed against a soda machine. Reilly told MSNBC that an officer slammed his head against the glass “purposefully” on the way out of the restaurant.
The reporters were subsequently released without any charges.
Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post, said in a statement that “compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists.”