NEFAC Calls for Dept. of Justice Investigation Into Arrest, Mistreatment of Journalists in Ferguson, Mo.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | justin@nefirstamendment.org

The New England First Amendment Coalition joined 44 other media organizations this week to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate police interaction with the press and the release of information to the public during the events following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last month.

In a letter drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, NEFAC and its co-signers provided specific suggestions for the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s inquiries and ways for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to best develop a collaborative reform initiative with county police. The letter also served as an offer from those media organizations to provide support and training to law enforcement officers.

“We urge investigators to make the unlawful arrest and mistreatment of journalists a part of its formal probe,” the letter stated. “Because of the connection between the exercise of political freedoms and the freedom of the press, the Department’s mandate to examine the civil rights record of local police in Ferguson, which naturally will be the focus of the investigation, will nonetheless be illuminated by looking at the breakdown of newsgathering protections that occurred last month.”

Wesley Lowery of the The Washington Post is one of those journalists arrested while covering the protests in Ferguson. Lowery is a former reporter for The Boston Globe and a 2013 fellow at NEFAC’s annual New England First Amendment Institute.

“While the events in Ferguson may seem far removed from New England, they were covered by reporters from all regions and reflect the racial tensions that still exist throughout this country,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “It is important to recognize when First Amendment protections are ignored and to work together to make sure journalists continue to have the freedom to report stories of national interest.”

Organizations joining NEFAC and the Reporters Committee include the American Society of News Editors, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Media Law Resource Center, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Tully Center for Free Speech.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.