Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Journalists arrested by order of House Republicans

Source: Press TV

In a stunning break with First Amendment policy, House Republicans directed Capitol Hill police to detain a highly regarded documentary crew that was attempting to film a Wednesday hearing on a controversial natural gas procurement practice.

Republicans also denied the entrance of a credentialed ABC News news team that was attempting to film the event.

Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Gasland" was taken into custody by Capitol Hill police this morning, along with his crew, after Republicans objected to their presence, according to Democratic sources present at the hearing. The meeting of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment had been taking place in room 2318 of the Rayburn building.

Approximately 16 officers entered the hearing room and handcuffed Fox amid audible discussions of "disorderly conduct" charges, according to Democratic sources present at the arrest.

"Gasland" received strong critical acclaim and takes a critical eye toward the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a process in which several tons of highly pressurized water and chemicals are injected into the ground, allowing valuable natural gas to escape. The practice is decried by ecological experts for destroying ecosystems and polluting groundwater. The energy industry keeps the actual content of fracking chemicals secret.

Fox had hoped to film Wednesday's hearing for a follow-up to "Gasland." A colleague of Fox's at his production company was unable to comment on the morning's events, but HuffPost expects a statement soon.

Fox did not have formal Capitol Hill credentials, but such formalities are rarely enforced against high-profile journalists. Temporary passes are easy to obtain, and if Republicans had objected on procedural grounds, they could have simply sent the crew to the front desk, rather than ordering police to arrest journalists. The right to a free press is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Documentary crews are almost never denied access to public meetings of elected government officials.

A separate ABC News crew, which did have official Capitol Hill credentials, was also denied access to the public hearing. Huffington Post


The targeting of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement has caused the United States to drop precipitously in a leading survey of press freedom. Reporters Without Borders was explicit in its summary of its report, saying that "the United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests." Huffington Post

At 12:48 pm Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011, while working on a story about citizen journalism at the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York for PBS affiliate WNET Thirteen, John Farley was arrested, along with the demonstrators whose stories he was covering.

A reporter working for the NYT, Natasha Lennard, wrote to editors while covering #OccupyWallSt, "I'm being arrested." Lennard was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday, October 1, 2011.

Kristen Gwynne, a staff member at AlterNet, was also arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011.

In the dark hours of November 15, the NYPD orchestrated a raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park on the orders of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Journalists soon began reporting on Twitter that they were being 'prevented from reporting about the police actions - and next, reports emerged of police harassment, abuse and even arrests. Ten journalists, some from the NPR, the Associated Press and the New York Daily News, were arrested. One journalist from the New York Post was put in a choke hold.

30 journalists were arrested at the Occupy Wall Street protests on Dec. 01, 2011 including some at the police raids on Occupy LA and Occupy Philly. The arrests occurred in 10 cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Chapel Hill, New York City, Oakland and Richmond.

On Dec. 01, 2011, Free Press delivered a petition with more than 40,000 signatures to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, president of the United States Conference of Mayors. The petition called on U.S. mayors to protect First Amendment rights and to protect journalists covering the Occupy movement.

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