As protests against police brutality and institutional racism are increasing following the murders of George Floyd and other unarmed people of color in recent years, so are the violent attacks against journalists who have been assigned to cover those protests. The E. W. Scripps School of Journalism strongly condemns the violent efforts by police to intimidate and prevent journalists from fulfilling their critical role in our democracy.
The Press Freedom Foundation has documented more than 130 assaults on journalists since May 28th---more than 100 of those attacks were by police. News crews have been pepper sprayed, tear gassed and struck by batons and rubber bullets, resulting in serious injuries and damaged equipment. More than 30 journalists have been arrested on no legitimate grounds—some during live coverage of the protests.
U.S. journalists being attacked while covering protests is not new. Recent examples of such violence against the news media occurred during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement, the 2016 Standing Rock protests, the 2014 Ferguson protests and at President Trump’s inauguration in early 2017. What makes the recent, and ongoing, violent attacks on the media different is the deliberate targeting of journalists by law enforcement officers even after journalists identified themselves as being members of the press and fulfilling their professional, constitutionally protected activities.
Police violence against journalists is the hallmark of brutal dictatorships and corrupt regimes. We recognize that the recent police attacks targeted at journalists are the actions of a small subset of rogue officers, and that the majority of police officers neither condone nor participate in such un-American behavior by their colleagues. But lack of disciplinary action and criminal prosecution against such rogue officers is not acceptable. U.S. police officers who do not swiftly and openly condemn attacks on journalists are complicit in the corruption and enable even more criminal brutality.
Our alumni and interns are working in cities where these protests are most visible, and as such, we are mindful of their safety while they provide the reporting and analysis our nation needs to remain a pluralistic democracy. We put our trust and support in the work we trained our students and graduates to do. The E. W. Scripps School of Journalism remains committed to training our future journalists to stay true to the E. W. Scripps Company’s motto since 1923: “Give light and the people will find their own way.” We expect that the government, especially those entrusted to enforce the law, should do nothing less than protect the First Amendment right for all journalists to do their jobs.
Eddith A. Dashiell