Last month, Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman was charged with criminal trespassing for her coverage of an altercation between protesters and private security personnel for the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Goodman’s footage of the altercation was seen more than 13 million times on Facebook, and was rebroadcast on outlets such as CBS, NBC, NPR.org, CNN, MSNBC, and Huffington Post.
Last Friday, North Dakota prosecutors dropped the trespassing charge against Goodman, but thereafter charged her with participating in a “riot,” a misdemeanor offence. This afternoon District Judge John Grinsteiner dismissed the charge, citing a lack of probable cause.
“We are relieved that the charges against Amy Goodman have been dismissed, but they never should have been filed in the first place, declared Delphine Halgand, RSF’s US Director. It is unacceptable that a journalist’s right to cover a story of major public interest was threatened by North Dakota authorities.”
“The judge’s decision to reject the State’s Attorney’s attempt to prosecute a journalist - in this case me - is a great vindication of the first amendment,” Goodman told supporters and reporters outside the courthouse. “The State’s Attorney must respect freedom of the press and the first amendment. Violating the First Amendment is not good for North Dakota, it’s not good for this country.”
This is not the first time that journalists have been arrested for covering protests in the United States. In July, at least three journalists were arrested and charged with “obstruction of a highway” while covering #blacklivesmatter protests in Louisiana. Last year, several journalists were arrested or attacked while covering different #blacklivesmatter protests in Minneapolis and Baltimore.
The United States ranks 41 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.
Image credit: JIM WATSON / AFP