In Turnabout, Global Leaders Urge U.S. to Protect Reporters Amid Unrest

In Turnabout, Global Leaders Urge U.S. to Protect Reporters Amid Unrest

access_time2020-06-05 13:55:43

A police officer near the White House slams a riot shield into a cameraman’s chest. The authorities in Minneapolis fire projectiles at a TV crew, prompting a reporter to cry, “stop shooting at us.” A black journalist is encircled by riot police and arrested live on the air.

Attacks against journalists covering demonstrations against racial injustice have prompted foreign governments to call on American authorities to respect press freedom and protect reporters, both local and foreign.

For the United States, it is a role reversal.

The attacks bear a striking resemblance to police brutality against journalists around the world over the years — ones that have been swiftly condemned by officials in the United States, where press freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

But this week, it was the governments of Germany, Australia and Turkey condemning attacks on reporters in America.

Experts say the recent attacks reflect a growing pattern of anti-press violence in the United States. Pauline Adès-Mével, a spokeswoman for Reporters Without Borders, said the frequency and the intensity of the U.S. attacks are “shocking.”

“It’s a democracy, and it’s also a symbol,” she said of the United States, adding that it is “no longer a champion of press freedom, either at home or abroad.”

Turkey, which has a long record of anti-press actions, appeared to seize on the erosion of America’s reputation in making its criticism.

Since protests began on May 26, more than 250 abridgments of press freedom have been reported across the United States by journalists covering the demonstrations, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group documenting the problem.

A number of episodes have involved foreign reporters, prompting governments abroad to urge American authorities to uphold international norms that ensure members of the press can report without impediment.

Heiko Maas, the foreign minister of Germany, said he would contact American authorities over the treatment of a German television news crew by law enforcement officers on Friday night in Minneapolis.


 

In a video posted by the public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the officers threaten to arrest a team of German journalists. In another scene, shots can be heard at the reporter’s back, and he ducks to shield himself. Stefan Simons, the reporter, is seen wearing a vest that clearly identifies him as a member of the press.

Deutsche Welle, in a later report, 
said the police shot projectiles at the team, and Mr. Simons described rubber bullets being shot.

 

Two journalists working for an Australian news outlets were subjected to attacks by the police on Monday evening as officers cleared peaceful demonstrators from an area near the White House to allow a photo-op for President Trump.

Amelia Brace, a reporter, and Tim Myers, a cameraman, were reporting for Australia’s 7News television station, when they were charged by the police. The incident played out live on Australian television.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia asked the Australian ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, to look into what happened, a spokeswoman for the Australian Embassy in Washington said.

Two police officers with the United States Park Police “have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian press,” Gregory T. Monahan, the acting chief of the service, said in a statement.

Those consequences ripple out across the world because the United States has traditionally been seen as a protector of free speech and the press. When security forces attacked reporters in Egypt during widespread protests in 2011, officials in the State Department condemned the actions as deliberate attempts by the government to stifle information.

Similarly, the United States has long been 
critical of Turkey’s crackdown on its press. Dozens of news outlets have been shut down by the Turkish authorities, and hundreds of reporters have been arrested and attacked by security forces.

Turkey is considered by press freedom groups to have one of the worst records in the world. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 47 journalists are in jail in Turkey.

But after Lionel Donovan, a reporter for the Turkish public broadcaster TRT, was hit by a nonlethal round during protests in Minneapolis last week, Turkey used the opportunity to assail the United States for its treatment of journalists.

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish president’s communication director, condemned the episode in a post on Twitter, saying he would “raise the issue” with U.S. authorities “without delay.”

“Press freedom is the backbone of democracy,” Mr. Altun said.

His comments caused a swift backlash from some Turks, who accused him of hypocrisy and reminded him of attacks on the press at home.

Attacks on journalists are on the rise in cities around the world, particularly during mass demonstrations, experts say.

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