OSCE Representative calls on US authorities to respect rights of journalists to report on public demonstrations and to uphold press freedom

25-01-2017, 15:12 | Comments: 0
OSCE Representative calls on US authorities to respect rights of journalists to report on public demonstrations and to uphold press freedomThe OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today called the United States’ authorities to ensure that constitutional and international legal protections on freedom of the press are upheld in the case of two journalists who were arrested while covering the protests around the inauguration of Donald Trump on 20 January in Washington D.C.

Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America were arrested on the morning of the inauguration and charged with the District of Columbia’s law on “rioting or inciting to riot”. The journalists were subsequently released after initial court appearances and have been granted preliminary hearings in February. If convicted, the journalists could face 10 years imprisonment and fines of up to $25,000 each.

“The media has a critical role to play in democracies by providing transparency as well as accountability of the exercise of state power,” said the Representative. “This public watchdog function is especially important around the time of elections and during changes of government, including at the time of inauguration. As long as it is not proved that journalists have taken a direct and active part in hostilities themselves, their activities during public demonstrations should be left unimpaired.”

The Representative expresses her concern that the arrest of and charges against Engel and Rubinstein come at a time when the role of the press and the media more generally is threatened by the administration. She expects this negative trend to be reversed immediately and the United States to continue to uphold its long and leading reputation as a standard bearer for free speech and press freedom internationally.

The Representative reminds the United States’ authorities that the rights of journalists to observe and report on public demonstrations are clearly guaranteed by the freedom of the press under First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution, as well as by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil Rights, which the United States has ratified.

The Representative has previously raised the issues of journalists’ rights to report during demonstrations in the United States.

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