Reporters Without Borders welcomes the decision of the city attorney of Denver to drop the charges being held on Asa Eslocker, an ABC News reporter. Mr. Steven D. Zansberg, Eslocker’s attorney, has contacted Reporters Without Borders on October 16 to inform the organization that the city attorney has decided to drop all charges in the reporter’s case.
Eslocker was arrested during the Democratic National Convention in Denver late last August. Eslocker was manhandled and choked by the Denver police and arrested by the police department sergeant while he was waiting outside the city’s Brown Palace hotel on a public sidewalk. He was charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order and was released on the day of his arrest, August 27th, after posting a $500 bail. Eslocker was attempting to take pictures of Democratic senators meeting with lobbyists and large donors for an investigative piece. Reporters Without Borders stresses the importance of investigative journalists’ freedom to report and probe stories on public property, without the fear of being arrested or violently apprehended.
28.08.08 - ABC News reporter arrested in Denver during the Democratic National Convention
Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of ABC News producer Asa Eslocker on 27 August in downtown Denver and calls on the Denver police department to drop all charges against him.
Eslocker had been photographing high-ranking politicians in town for the Democratic National Convention for a story he was preparing on corporate donors and lobbyists. A video posted on the ABC News website shows a Denver sheriff’s officer asking Eslocker to move from in front of the Brown Palace Hotel and then pushing him into oncoming traffic after he did not immediately comply. According to ABC News, Denver police arrived two hours later and arrested Eslocker.
“The use of unnecessary force and the arrest of a journalist who was reporting an important political story is deeply troubling and unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The attempts at intimidation evident in the video of Eslocker’s arrest - simply because he refused to leave a shared, publicly-used space - reflect negatively on the commitment of the police to uphold a journalist’s right to gather important news.”
The Denver police department has charged Eslocker with trespassing, interference, and refusing to obey a lawful order. He was released after posting a $500 bond.
“We call on the prosecutors to drop all charges against Eslocker,” Reporters Without Borders added.
According to ABC News, arresting officers claimed that Eslocker was taken into custody after the Brown Palace Hotel filed a complaint against him. Officers on the scene reportedly told Eslocker that the sidewalk in front of the hotel where Eslocker had been working was privately owned.
A spokesperson for the hotel told Reporters Without Borders that it does not own the sidewalk. The spokesperson said that the hotel had requested that Eslocker not obstruct the hotel’s entrance, and that he was arrested after refusing several requests from police to stand clear of the doors. It did not file a formal complaint until after the arrest.
When Eslocker refused to move, a sheriff’s deputy first physically removed him by forcing him into the street and oncoming traffic. He was arrested two hours later. A video of the arrest shows a police officer grabbing Eslocker by the neck and then twisting his arm behind his back. He is later handcuffed and taken into custody. The same officer who had earlier forced Eslocker off of the sidewalk is also recorded telling the cameraman to stop filming.
“We’re going to defend Asa vigorously and his right to do the kind of reporting we were doing,” said ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider.
“It would be very troubling to us if Asa was specifically targeted,” Schneider said. According to Schneider, on 26 August, the day before Eslocker’s arrest, an event at the hotel drew dozens of reporters and members of the public, who congregated on the same sidewalk, blocking the hotel doors. No arrests were made or complaints expressed. The hotel spokesperson could not confirm those details.
“We are very troubled that our producer was arrested yesterday simply doing his job on a public sidewalk,” Schneider said. “We certainly hope that cooler heads will prevail and that these charges will ultimately be dropped. In the meantime, we are going to continue working hard to expose the confluence of politics and big money.” Eslocker is scheduled to appear in court on 25 September.
On 25 August, USA Today videographer Garrett Hubbard was roughed up by a Denver police officer as he was filming a protest that officers were trying to contain.
See ABC News story and watch the video: