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United States22 September 2008

Charges will not be pressed against journalists arrested during Republican convention

The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper reported on 19 September that the St. Paul authorities will not after all prosecute the journalists who were picked up in the course of the mass arrests that took place in St. Paul, Minnesota, on 1 September during the Republic Party convention (see 2 September release).

The newspaper quotes St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman as saying the city authorities have decided not to prosecute journalists charged with misdemeanour offences and that they will use a “very broad” definition of who, among the approximately 800 people arrested, is a journalist.

Among those who will not be prosecuted are Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, and two of her reporters and producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were charged with unlawful assembly, obstructing the legal process and incitement to riot . They were also the victims of police violence.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the outcome, and hopes a similar decision is taken with ABC News producer Asa Eslocker, who was arrested and charged with trespassing, interference, and refusing to obey a lawful order during the Democratic Party convention in Denver on 27 August (see 29 August release). He is due to appear in court on 25 September.


2.09.08 - Call for withdrawal of charges against three journalists manhandled and arrested outside Republican Party convention

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the way Amy Goodman, the host of the nationally-syndicated radio and TV programme Democracy Now!, and two of her producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were manhandled and arrested by police while covering demonstrations yesterday outside the Republican Party convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The press freedom organisation calls for an investigation into the circumstances of their arrest and the immediate withdrawal of the charges brought against them. Although quickly released, Goodman was charged with obstructing a legal process and interfering with a police officer, while her two producers were charged with “felony riot.”

“The violence used by the police when arresting these three journalists, who identified themselves as such, was an unacceptable abuse of authority, a violence of the First Amendment and a clear demonstration of a desire to intimidate them and their news organisation,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Democracy Now! has done a lot of very critical reporting about the war in Iraq and it is no coincidence that three of its representatives were treated like this,” the press freedom organisation added. “The confirmation of the charges against them compounds the original injustice with another one. The police should be investigating their own ranks.”

The three journalists were arrested at about 5 p.m. during anti-war demonstrations being staged by veterans and relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq near the convention centre where the Republican Party is due to confirm Sen. John McCain as its candidate for November’s presidential election.

Kouddous and Salazar were the first to be arrested by baton-wielding police. Kouddous was slammed against a wall and then pinned to the ground. Salazar was slammed to the ground. Kouddous sustained injuries to the chest and back. Salazar sustained injuries to her face.

Goodman was arrested when she asked the police why they had arrested her colleagues. Although she identified herself as a journalist, her hands were handcuffed behind her back and then she was led away, as can be seen in a video sequence shot by a bystander (below).

The three journalists were released a few hours later. An Associated Press photographer, Matt Rourke, was also arrested at the same time as several hundred demonstrators.

A committed journalist who is very critical of the Republican government and especially the war in Iraq, Goodman launched her Democracy Now! in 1996. Produced in New York by a team of independent journalists, it is syndicated to more than 700 radio and TV stations in the United States and abroad.

See the video :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ



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