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United States16 October 2008

Freelance reporter jailed in New York may soon be released

Reporters Without Borders has learned that a prison term is not being sought for freelance photographer Jason Nicholas. His lawyer, Wylie Stecklow, stated yesterday: "While the Department of Parole was seeking 12 months incarceration, all of the letters submitted in support of Jason and the testimonies of the rehabilitation that Jason has made, swayed the Court to recommend revoke and restore." Revoke and restore indicates that Nicholas’s parole was initially revoked but will be immediately restored. He will be released back to supervised parole. This recommendation will now be reviewed by the Parole Board. If three members agree, Nicholas will be released in the coming weeks.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the Department of Parole’s decision : "Both the judge and the Department seem to understand the specifics of this case and the fact that Jason Nicholas’s successful rehabilitation should not be jeopardized neither by a technicality linked to his parole’s conditions nor by pending charges linked to an abusive arrest while he was performing his job as a reporter."

The press freedom organization is asking that the City of St.Paul drop the Obstruction of Legal Process charges placed against Mr. Nicholas after the mass arrests that occurred at Republican National Convention. Most charges against other journalists in St.Paul have already been dropped.

13.10.08 - Journalist arrested during Republican National Convention faces over one year in prison for parole violation

Reporters Without Borders is asking for the judge to show clemency for journalist Jason Nicholas, independent photographer for the New York Post, currently in jail in Rikers Island, NY for parole violation. Jason Nicholas is scheduled for another parole hearing in front of an administrative judge on October 15th. He was one of over 40 journalists arrested while covering the Republican National Convention on September 1st. While most charges against other journalists in St.Paul have been dropped, Mr. Nicholas has not yet been cleared of obstruction to the legal process.

"These pending charges are hurting his chances of being restored to parole" commented his lawyer Wylie Stecklow. "Jason is a remarkable example of successful rehabilitation. He did not break his parole with any intention to commit a criminal act. He was at the Convention working, which is actually a positive thing. The violation should be seen as a technical one and the penalty should reflect that. Otherwise, the publics’ faith in the true integrity of the correctional and parole systems would be jeopardized. "

"The fact that Jason Nicholas didn’t have the appropriate paperwork to travel to another state is not a sufficient reason to send him to jail. To be able to carry out his work, a journalist needs to be able to travel freely. At the end of the day, it is absurd that Jason Nicholas would be imprisoned for the very activity that confirms its full reintegration to society" stated Reporters Without Borders.

The international press freedom organization has written to the administrative judge presiding over Mr. Nicholas’ s case asking that the charges in Minnesota not influence his decision and that the journalist be released: "Jason should not have been arrested for simply doing his job. We have denounced the arrests of reporters in Minneapolis as overzealous and abusive. The fact that Jason Nicholas has not been cleared as the other reporters were is incomprehensible and unfair" said the press freedom organization "While we do understand that there must be repercussions to any parole contravention, we believe that in this case the penalty should fit the violation."

Mr. Nicholas, who has already spent more than 4 weeks in prison, faces up to 14 months in prison.

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