RSF calls on US authorities to drop charges against a journalist arrested while covering a press conference

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the use of force and arrest by police and the Ohio National Guard of a reporter, Evan Lambert, in the course of his duties while covering the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Update on 15/02/23

RSF welcomes the news that the two criminal charges against Lambert have been dropped. The Ohio attorney general called Lambert’s conduct “consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter”.

A video from February 8th shows NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert being arrested at a press conference for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in the town of East Palestine. Lambert was pushed to the ground by police, placed in handcuffs and led out of the building after police asked him to stop broadcasting live. The press conference was held following a train derailment that caused major fires and a hazardous chemical release.

 “There is simply no excuse for police to violently arrest a journalist for doing their job,” said Executive Director of RSF’s US Bureau, Clayton Weimers. “East Palestine Police and the Ohio National Guard have both defended their actions by calling Lambert ‘disruptive,’ which is a flimsy attempt to justify a blatant violation of the First Amendment. RSF welcomes Ohio Attorney General David Yost's announcement that he will be leading an investigation into the incident, and calls on him to drop all the charges against journalist Evan Lambert." 

Lambert is facing charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. If convicted, he could face 120 days in jail or a fine of $1,000. Governor DeWine has said reporters have “every right” to report and did not authorize the arrest. However, DeWine has not called for the charges to be dropped. 

According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, 15 journalists were arrested in the US in 2022. While the number of journalists detained annually in the United States has fallen sharply since a recent peak in 2020, incidents such as Lambert’s arrest underscore the need for better protections and training at the local level for law enforcement to better respect the rights of the press. 

The United States is ranked 42nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index.

55/ 180
Score : 66.59
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