A group of journalism organizations including RTDNA has sent a letter to the Department of Justice, seeking a probe into possible civil rights violations in the treatment of journalists by law enforcement officers and agencies in Ferguson, Missouri.
The call for action was made as the DOJ announced it has launched initiatives to investigate and address recent police conduct in Missouri following the death of Michael Brown.
The letter said, in part, "As to the Civil Rights Division’s inquiries, we urge investigators to make the unlawful arrest and mistreatment of journalists a part of its formal probe. Because of the connection between the exercise of political freedoms and the freedom of the press, the Department’s mandate to examine the civil rights record of local police in Ferguson, which naturally will be the focus of the investigation, will nonetheless be illuminated by looking at the breakdown in newsgathering protections that occurred last month." It goes on to cite incidents in which journalists were arrested, intimidated, harassed, and threatened. Two journalists were shot with rubber bullets, while others had guns pointed directly at them.
The letter concludes with a call not only for investigations into the events in Ferguson, but ongoing training for law enforcement agencies about the role of journalists and their rights protected by the First Amendment, and offers the assistance of journalism organizations for such training.
You can read the full letter here.