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The Des Moines reporter’s acquittal was hailed as a victory for freedom of the press

Press freedom advocates celebrate an Iowa jury decision to exempt Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri from any charges she made while reporting a protest against Black Lives Matter last May and Political Movements Forward. More than 100 reporters were arrested while covering protests against Black Lives Matter last year. While charges against most were eventually dropped, others are still pending. Stay up to date with the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeDetails: The jury found that Sahouri and her then boyfriend Spenser Robnett, who were also on trial this week, had not been found guilty of two offense allegations – failure to disperse and disrupt official acts and Robnett refused to leave the demonstration scene at the request of the police. The defense argued the order was not clear and they did not obey the orders. Moines officer Luke Wilson, who arrested Sahouri last summer, testified that he made the arrest because Sahouri disrupted the arrest of her then-boyfriend. She refused to leave the premises after shooting pepper spray around the Crowd to disperse. His body camera did not record during the incident. Sahouri testified that she identified herself as the “press” but was still sprayed with pepper by the police. “I raise my hands,” she said. “I said, ‘I am press, I am press, I am press.’ He grabbed me, sprayed me with pepper and said: “I didn’t ask that.” “What they say:“ I am grateful to the jury for doing the right thing, ”said Sahouri after the verdict.“ Your decision confirms the freedom of the press and justice in our democracy. ” “We are very grateful that there is justice today and that Andrea has been completely exonerated,” said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of News at Gannett Media, the parent company in the Des Moines Register. “When reporters are arrested and withdrawn from protests, it denies people the right to know what is going on in their community,” said Carol Hunter, editor-in-chief of the Des Moines Register, which is unusual in the US as journalists are rare at work be arrested. This case quickly gained international attention, partly as violence against journalists increased in the US and around the world. “During the summer riots, we documented worrying cases where journalists were targeted for being members of the media,” said Katherine Jacobsen, of the Journalists’ Protection Committee. The big picture: Free press proponents praise the decision as a victory, but say it was problematic that Sahouri was charged from the start. “This is a great relief that she was acquitted, but nonetheless, it is deeply disturbing that this case was brought to trial in the first place,” said Sarah Matthews, an attorney on the reporters’ committee. The trial sends a truly terrifying message to journalists, in particular those who specifically wish to report on protests in Des Moines. “As a journalist documenting press freedom violations in the US, it is a worrying precedent that she was not only arrested and attacked with pepper spray, but then brought to justice,” said Kirstin McCudden, editor-in-chief of US Press Freedom Tracker, in a statement. “The jury’s verdict is welcome, but does not completely remove the shadow that this indictment has cast on one of the most important values ​​of our country,” the Freedom of the Press Foundation said in a statement. Yes, but: During Freedom of the press experts believe that this case sets an important precedent for other similar cases around the world, most legal scholars do not believe that Sahouri’s case will have a major impact on other protesters. “Legally, there would be no link between this case and other cases because each case is judged on its own, “said St eve Foritano, Director of the First Year Trial Practicum at Drake University. What to Watch Out for: One of the main issues raised in this case but still unsolved is how the press should identify when reporting on protests or other dangerous situations in which the police might be involved without themselves put in danger. While some television journalists are easy to identify with cameras and microphones, many print journalists often get confused for demonstrators or other local witnesses. Matthews said the reporters’ committee encourages journalists to clearly identify themselves as there are legal benefits. She alerts the police that the first change will protect them against protests. Still, she admits: “It’s very difficult.” A good solution for journalists when they feel they are in danger by identifying themselves as the press is to possibly remove your news agency logo while still identifying themselves as the press and always have credentials with them even if they are not visible. Conclusion: “Unfortunately there is no single answer here,” said Jacobsen. “It is important that journalists assess the situation on the ground and decide how they can report most safely.” Disclosure: Both Axhos Linh Ta and Jason Clayworth have previously worked with Sahouri in Register Trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

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