US - RSF alarmed by arrest of West Virginia journalist after asking Health Secretary a question
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed to learn of a journalist's arrest last night in West Virginia after attempting to ask United States Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question.
Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, was walking behind Secretary Price at West Virginia's state capitol last night, attempting to ask him a question about pre-existing conditions in the healthcare legislation recently adopted by the US House of Representatives. Special counsel to the president Kellyanne Conway was also with Secretary Price at the capitol.
Shortly thereafter, Heyman was arrested and jailed for willful disruption of state government processes. He was later released on bail.
"RSF is very concerned to learn of the arrest of a journalist who appears to have simply been doing his job asking a public official a question, says Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF's North America office. This is not the kind of incident that should be occurring in a country that respects the role of a free press, and certainly not in the country of the First Amendment."
This is not the first time that journalists have been arrested for doing their job in the US in recent months. In January, at least 5 journalists were arrested while covering inauguration day protests, with one of the five still facing criminal charges to this day. At least 10 journalists have been arrested for their coverage of the North Dakota Access Pipeline and the surrounding protests since last fall. In 2016, at least three journalists were arrested and charged with “obstruction of a highway” while covering #blacklivesmatter protests in Louisiana.
The US ranks 43 out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 2 places in 2016.
Image credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP