May 29, 2020

US - After arrest of CNN crew covering Minnesota protests, RSF calls on US police departments to revisit press protections

Kerem Yucel/AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the arrest of a CNN crew on the morning of May 29 during protests in Minneapolis. This is in violation of the First Amendment rights of these journalists, and authorities must ensure such unconstitutional actions are not repeated.

Multiple members of a CNN crew, including correspondent Omar Jimenez, were arrested by Minnesota state police on May 29 while covering protests over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody on May 25. Jimenez, cameraman Leonel Mendez and producer Bill Kirkos were detained just after 5 a.m. local time reporting live near a scene where a local police precinct had been set on fire. The crew was clearly identified as reporters, with Jimenez's CNN badge visible as he was reporting. Police told the crew they were being arrested because they had not moved when asked, according to a member of the CNN crew. However, live footage shows the crew telling the officers, “Wherever you want us [we'll] get out of your way." The crew was released an hour later, and the Minnesota governor has since apologized to CNN President Jeff Zucker. 

"The arrest of journalists on American soil is a shocking sight, and one that has become alarmingly common amid protests in the United States, a nation with some of the strongest press protections in the world,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “Reporting on protests is not a crime; it is in the public's interest. While RSF is glad to see the crew was swiftly released and the governor apologized, this should never happen again. The Minnesota police and all police departments throughout the United States should revisit their policies and trainings regarding the rights of the press to ensure the First Amendment is being respected."

The United States is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index