Shades of Ferguson

April 27, 2015 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

"They just took me down,” the photo editor at the City Paper told the Baltimore Sun.

J.M. Giordano told the Sun he was hit in the head with multiple police shields and ended up with multiple bruises as he was trying to cover the protests which are continuing in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray.

And as it was in Ferguson last summer, this is totally unacceptable behavior toward the media by the police. 

RTDNA decries this kind of response, especially after the lessons supposedly learned after members of the media were attacked and arrested during the protests there over the police shooting of Michael Brown.  We continue to expect it’s going to change—but incidents like this one make us wonder when?

A Baltimore Police spokesman said, while it can be difficult for officers to tell the media apart from those disobeying orders, his department has been given instructions that media are to have the access they need to do their jobs.

During the fracas with Giordano, a Reuters photographer was also detained and issued a citation for “failure to obey orders” arising out of a pronouncement that what was happening in the area was “no longer a legal assembly.”

The police have apologized for the incidents and we understand that it can be difficult, especially during such heightened tensions, for officers to know who is—and who isn’t—breaking the law.  But nevertheless, police agencies must be measured in their reactions, even when the circumstances in a given instant might not be crystal clear.  

As the eyes and ears of the community in these volatile situations, the media has an important job to do and a First Amendment right to do so.  Those rights need to be protected by police just as any others.