Committee to Protect Journalists, Reuters, AP Urge Governors to Investigate Police Attacks Against Photojournalists

By Linh Nguyen

The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Getty Images wrote a letter to the National Governors Association this week, urging U.S. governors to immediately open investigations into more than 60 reported cases of assault against photojournalists covering the nationwide George Floyd protests by police.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a website and database run by the Freedom of the Press Foundation with support from CPJ, is investigating more than 400 reports of journalists (60 of which are photojournalists), assaulted, arrested or otherwise prevented from covering the recent protests.

The majority of the attacks were executed by the police, said the committee, including some incidents where journalists clearly identified themselves as members of the media – they were still targeted with rubber bullets, tear gas, physically shoved to the ground or arrested.

Since May 26 when the protests began, at least three photographers have incurred severe injuries to the eye and one has been permanently blinded in one eye.

The letter urges governors to launch immediate investigations into these attacks, make their findings public and hold those responsible accountable. In addition, they request that law enforcement officers receive regular training on the First Amendment rights of journalists covering demonstrations, rallies and other public events.

“It is incumbent upon you as the top elected leader in your state to ensure that journalists are able to report safely and without fear of reprisal from law enforcement or other agents of the state,” the letter wrote.

Visual journalism requires proximity to the subject and the events being documented. Photographers and video journalists working on the frontlines carry their cameras and other equipment, which makes it difficult for them to keep a low profile. However, their equipment should clearly distinguish them as media, said the letter, adding that their obvious identification as journalists should protect them from attacks by law enforcement.

“It is outrageous that so many photographers and visual journalists have been not just injured, but in many cases specifically targeted, simply for doing their job,” said CPJ Emergencies Director Maria Salazar Ferro.

“The risks photojournalists face daily are not new. We have spoken to photographers working from Gaza to Caracas who say they always operate in a high-risk environment. But it is deeply concerning to see the brazenness and scale at which photographers across the U.S. have been deliberately attacked while covering a story of historic importance.”

Many incidents were captured on camera. The letter lists five incidents over the span of three days from May 28 to May 30.

On May 28, Hyong Chang, a photojournalist for The Denver Post, was struck with pepper balls while documenting protests in Denver, Colorado. Chang was taking photos near officers when they began firing at the crowd. Chang said a police officer fired directly at him.

The next day, at least three other photographers were also struck in Denver. At least eight journalists were assaulted while covering protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, including three photographers, one of whom was an Associated Press photojournalist. Freelance journalist Linda Tirado was permanently blinded in one eye after being struck by a rubber bullet on the side of her head and her left eye.

On May 30, a Los Angeles Times photographer was struck in the eye and pepper sprayed while covering protests in Minneapolis. She was wearing a flak jacket labeled “TV.” Reuters cameraman Julio-Cesar Chavez and his security advisor were also struck by rubber bullets while covering protests in Minneapolis.

“There must be no impunity for acts of violence by law enforcement against journalists, particularly in cases where journalists were clearly identifiable,” the letter wrote. “We urge you to forcefully reiterate your support for the rights of journalists and media workers, and the importance of a free press in covering and reporting on protests and public events, as well as their fundamental role in holding public institutions accountable.”

Last week on June 10, 2020, the CPJ wrote a letter to President Trump, on behalf of 72 international press freedom groups, urging him to speak out against attacks on the press and in support of the rights of journalists to report freely, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

They noted that freedom of the press is “born out of a recognition that journalists serve as independent monitors of social and political developments, and are essential to democracy, transparency, and accountability.”

The letter argued that what happens in the United States has repercussions for journalists around the world because when the U.S. backslides, because it encourages authoritarian-leaning leaders around the world to restrict the press, especially after recognizing the U.S. as a free, democratic superpower.

“Instead of condemning journalists and the media, we urge you to commend and celebrate them as the embodiment of the First Amendment, which is the envy of so many countries around the world,” the letter insisted.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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  1. Chris Woodland

    I have a question what is a photojournalist and what is a visual journalist. All I have seen is a bunch of so-called photojournalist with cell phones in their hands taking pictures of visual journalist turn down statues.

  2. Alan Miller

    > I have a question what is a photojournalist and what is a visual journalist.

    Those are people with a smart phone and access to the internet; you have it correct.  A visual journalist just can’t afford a cell phone, so they just “see” stuff.

  3. Chris Woodland

    I think we’re losing control of our legitimate news agencies in the United States the only up-and-coming news agency I see is the Taliban Times

    1. Jeff Boone

      Interesting comment.  It seems the American left has adopted the Islamist’s tactics.

      Madrassas (college campuses) ideological indoctrination combined with Internet brainwashing and organization toward violent destabilization of whole societies where THEY could then take over.

      Look at CHAZ or CHOP as the example for what society would look like.  It looks a lot like the places that the Taliban and ISIS ran (with less head CHOPing) until the US military ran them out.

      The mainstream news media used to be a defense against this type of thing, but it seems they are now part of the same.  The question is… are they infiltrated or are they just pursuing profit and thus ignorantly supporting the destruction of their country.   I think it is a bit of both… the campus trained radicals are now working in the news rooms.  And they are mobbing their bosses into submission while the bosses try to make enough money to get out and retire comfortably.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Things are not going so great in Chaz.

        Seattle police have launched a murder investigation after one person was shot dead and another critically injured inside the city’s self-declared autonomous protest zone.
        The shooting occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning, Seattle police said in a statement. They added that a 19-year-old man died from his injuries and another male remains in hospital with life-threatening injuries.
        “Officers attempted to locate a shooting victim but were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims,” the statement said. “The suspect or suspect(s) fled and are still at large. There is no description at this time.”

        1. Chris Woodland

          All you little visual journalists take note this could have been you…

          You guys need to stay out of the way and let the little police do their job and if you’re really really nice no one will shoot you with a little plastic bullet..

        2. Keith Olsen

          No longer permitted.  You may be cancelled for language

          I just read where Dreyers is going to change the name of the Eskimo Bar.

          So I guess the word “Eskimo” is now cancelled.


        3. Ron Oertel

          I wasn’t sure what CHAZ stood for, so I thought I’d look it up.  I then came across this article regarding a journalist who spent 5 days inside the zone.  (I only skimmed it.)

          Regardless of what one thinks of this, I’d probably be a lot more afraid of being inside the zone, vs. outside of it. (Hey, is this the “future” – after de-funding police?) 😉

          Wasn’t there a movie like this (e.g., “Escape from New York”, perhaps?)

        4. Keith Olsen

          Do you realize how bad you sound when you talk about this stuff?

          What, speaking the truth about something in the news that actually happened today?


  4. John Hobbs

    Ageism isn’t a personal attack? You poor right-wing snowflake. Have a cookie.

    “are they just pursuing profit and thus ignorantly supporting the destruction of their country.”

    That would be the bankers and real estate speculators.

      1. John Hobbs

        Jeff Boone has said that the journalist who lost her vision to a cop’s pepperball deserved it for doing her job. Would he like to define who else deserves be maimed or killed for doing their legal and constitutionally protected job?

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