The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) said it has tallied more than 60 incidents in which journalists covering demonstrations over death of George Floyd during the course of his arrest by Minneapolis police were attacked, arrested or harassed by protesters or police in the past 48 hours alone.
RTDNA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Dan Shelley called the situation “calamitous” and “harming the public at large.”
“Journalists shouldn’t be the story,” Shelley said. “It is calamitous to see all of these journalists who are merely serving the public by covering these incidents of civil unrest being wantonly attacked. … Journalists are representatives of the public and are there to serve the public and to tell the stories of the protesters and of the elected and other public officials trying to deal with the situation.”
“It is really harming the public at large, not just the journalist. It’s interfering with their ability to be eyewitnesses and chroniclers of what’s occurring in this country right now,” he added.
Several of the incidents have played out on live television or on social media, including the arrest of a CNN reporter and crew in Minneapolis and a Fox News reporter and crew being chased out of Lafayette Park near the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday night.
The CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, who is black and Hispanic, and his crew were quickly released, and Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzTrump slams Biden staff for donating bail money to protesters At least 4,400 people arrested in connection with protests: report Minnesota officials believe white supremacists attending demonstrations in Twin Cities, official says MORE (D-Minn.) apologized to CNN President Jeff Zucker and promised to allow the press to do their jobs without interference or arrest by police.
A large protest at CNN headquarters in Atlanta earlier Friday resulted in clashes with police and vandalism to the building.
Glass getting broken outside the main entrance to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters; protesters cheer pic.twitter.com/EToiEj5Pom
— Fernando Alfonso III (@fernalfonso) May 29, 2020
While reporting for “Fox News @ Night” Friday night, one of two of Leland Vittert‘s security staffers was punched in the face and knocked to the ground as the team hurriedly exited the park.
“This was the scariest situation I’ve been in since I got chased out of Tahrir Square by a mob, and this was equally scary,” said Vittert, whose reporting from hot spots includes Cairo, Libya, the West Bank, war in Ukraine and the 2015 Baltimore riots.
Also on Friday night, photojournalist Linda Tirado was shot in the left eye in Minneapolis by a rubber bullet she believes came from the direction of police. Doctors say she likely has lost vision in her left eye permanently.
Hey folks, took a tracer found to the face (I think, given my backpack) and am headed into surgery to see if we can save my left eye
Am wisely not gonna be on Twitter while I’m on morphine
Stay safe folks pic.twitter.com/apZOyGrcBO
— Linda Tirado (@KillerMartinis) May 30, 2020
In Louisville, Ky., Kaitlin Rust, a reporter with NBC affiliate WAVE-3 also was pepper-sprayed by police on Friday.
“I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!” Rust yelled as she was struck during her report on live television.
Protests began early last week after video surfaced of a Minneapolis police officer pinning Floyd to the ground by kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Floyd died shortly after the incident and the officer has been fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Since then, eight Associated Press journalists have been hurt, including three by rubber bullets. One also was punched and others knocked to the ground.
“Authorities in cities across the US need to instruct police not to target journalists and ensure they can report safely on the protests without fear of injury or retaliation,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement on Sunday.