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‘Any of the Journalists Present Could Have Been Arrested’

North Dakota (FAIR– As residents were evicted from the Oceti Sakowin Camp where they had gathered to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, filmmaker and journalist Reed Lindsay posted this update on the continued assault on the First Amendment faced by independent journalists covering the #NODAPL struggle.

Filmmaker Jahnny Lee working with the Sundance Institute was arrested yesterday by North Dakota police while filming a stand-off between police and water protectors. He was charged with “obstruction of a government function.” I can only surmise that the charge of “criminal trespass,” leveled at Jihan Hafiz and many other journalists while covering events of the Standing Rock resistance against the DAPL pipeline, could not be used against Jahnny because he was on State Highway 1806. (How can one trespass on a highway?)

Image Credit: Flickr – Creative Commons – Dark Sevler

I was with Jahnny shortly before his arrest and could easily have been arrested in the same circumstances. In fact, any of the dozen or so journalists present could have been arrested. The water protectors were unarmed and praying. I did not see any of them commit an act of violence nor do anything threatening. The only violent actions I witnessed were committed by police, who tackled and manhandled people indiscriminately.

Journalists and filmmakers had been told by police that we would be allowed to film events on Highway 1806. These promises were not kept. Please see the still frames (Jahnny in the beige jacket). Jahnny was just released minutes ago. The police have confiscated his camera and phone “as evidence.” What is the state of our democracy when journalists are arrested for “obstructing government functions” and their cameras are seized “as evidence”?

This post originally ran on Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)