Although it is obvious the New York City Police Department has launched a full-scale war on journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement, city officials are justifying these arrests by pointing out that most did not have NYPD-issued press credentials.
But since when does the government determine who is a journalist or not?
And in this day and age of constant newsroom layoffs, it is any surprise that there are any government-certified journalists left?
It’s true that New York state law provides specific descriptions for journalists, even gives them certain privilages, but only when it comes to testifying about their sources in court. It provides no added protection for gathering news in the streets.
Besides, as we saw on Tuesday, press credentials only make it easier for the cops to corral reporters away from the scene they are trying to cover – or to rip the credentials off of them.
And as we’ve seen numerous times since the occupation began, it doesn’t take press credentials to document police abuse.
In fact, on Thursday, a non-credentialed citizen with a video camera documented cops dragging a young woman by the hair through the streets of Lower Manhattan.
The video was good enough for CNN (or at least its iReport section in which they solicit unpaid content from citizens), where it has received more than 12,000 views as of this writing.
Incidentally, it is videos like this that prompted CNN to layoff 50 staffers last week, mostly videographers, in New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Miami.
It’s gotten to the point where once-credentialed journalists should not only be documenting the Occupy movement on their own sites, they should be fully participating as activists as they are as much victims of corporate greed as anybody else.
And if anybody asks them to see their credetials, they should pull out a copy of the First Amendment, which is the only credentials anbody needs to cover news on the streets in the United States. This should also cover the citizens who are protesting and not documenting.
Not surprisingly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a completely different view, even if he does talk a good game about the First Amendment.
On Thursday, a day after several more reporters were arrested, his spokesman Stu Loeser issued the following statement:
Like all of you, I’ve heard and read many reports of reporters who supposedly were wearing valid NYPD press credentials, yet allegedly encountered problems on the streets of New York. Like some of you, I had those stories in mind when I read The Awls’ rundown of “The 25 26 Arrested Reporters and What They Do.” (In case you missed it, that piece, that piece is linked here.)
Not being familiar with many of the media outlets for which The Awl says these reporters work, I had the list of “26 arrested reporters” checked against the roster of reporters who hold valid NYPD press passes.
You can imagine my surprise when we found that only five of the 26 arrested reporters actually have valid NYPD-issued press credentials. Note that we didn’t check – and don’t really care for the sake of this exercise – if the reporter’s credential lists the media outlet for which he or she currently works.
My first impression of Loeser was that he is a frustrated journalist, like most flacks tend to be.
But judging by his LinkedIn page, he is probably an aspiring politician.
So it’s no wonder he’s already skilled in talking out of his ass.
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