October 10, 2017

US — #WeeklyAddress October 2 – October 8: Second wave of journalist arrests in St. Louis

Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of October 2 – October 8:

At least six journalists arrested in St. Louis while covering protests

Multiple journalists were taken into custody and charged with misdemeanor trespassing in St. Louis, Missouri on Tuesday, October 3 while covering a protest.

The Young Turks (TYT) reporter Jordan Chariton and cameraman Ty Bayliss were arrested and charged with trespassing while trapped in a “kettle,” a tactic used by law enforcement to control large crowds. Both Chariton and Bayliss were wearing credentials and identified themselves as journalists. They were released after 20 hours in custody. St. Louis based freelance photojournalist Daniel Shular was also detained in the kettle, despite telling police he was a member of the press and wearing a National Press Photographers Association press badge. He was released after 17 hours in detention. Al Neal, St. Louis bureau chief for online publication People’s World was also taken into custody. He reportedly informed his arresting officer that he was a member of the press, to which the officer replied “we don’t care, you’re getting arrested.” He was held for 26 hours before being released. Citizen journalist and livestreamer Jon Ziegler was also detained while filming the protest, making this the second time he has been taken into St. Louis police custody since September. He now faces two separate charges from both Tuesday’s and September’s arrests. Aminah Ali, an independent journalist and founder of local website Real STL News, was the sixth reporter to be taken into custody on Tuesday. She was released the next day and is currently facing unspecified charges. Read more about these incidents here.

This is the second time in the last three weeks that St. Louis police have arrested reporters while covering protests, with at least three journalists detained in mid-September. Unrest in St.Louis has been ongoing since the September 15 acquittal of Jason Stockley, a white former police officer charged with the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black motorist.

Trump tweets “FAKE NEWS” after NBC report

President Trump again criticized the press for reporting he disliked. Trump launched a series of tweets against the “fake news” media on Tuesday October 3 after publication of an NBC article that claimed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to the President as a “moron” and was considering resigning during the summer. Tillerson held a press conference the next day to address the article, where he denied ever contemplating resignation.

NBC News’ correspondent Hallie Jackson responded to the President’s tweets on air, saying: “Safe to say NBC News will not be issuing an apology to America.”

Two days later, Trump went further, tweeting that the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate American news outlets for “fake news.” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified his tweet in a press conference later that day, saying the President was frustrated with the lack of press coverage on his perceived achievements.

President Trump ended the week with more attacks against NBC, accusing the news outlet of intentionally disseminating inaccurate statements.

The President also tweeted a 9-minute long video on October 8 accusing the mainstream media of misreporting his response to the devastation in Puerto Rico. The video begins with the message, "What the fake news media will not show you in Puerto Rico..." and continues with a montage of the president and officials in the hurricane-stricken island overseeing and contributing to relief efforts. Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico more than two weeks ago, President Trump has continuously maintained that the media has inaccurately covered his handling of the storm's aftermath.

Trump blocks reporters on Twitter

Daniel Dale, the Washington correspondent for Canadian publication Toronto Star, tweeted a picture on October 3 showing that the US President had blocked him on Twitter, presumably for a response to an earlier tweet regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The President has blocked many Twitter users since taking office, often for disparaging tweets against him. Yet the White House considers the President’s tweets to be “official statements.” In July the Knight First Amendment Institute sued the President for the blocking, arguing that it was a suppression of dissent and that it would prevent people from responding to the President and engaging in critical debate.

The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.

For the latest updates, follow RSF on twitter @RSF_en.