Technology played a major role in gutting media outlets. Further, the public used to rely on reporters to cover spot news, but the cellphone enabled everyone to do the same.
So far in 2020, some 38 journalists have been attacked and 13 arrested, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. That number grows daily.
Several recent incidents are associated with George Floyd protests occurring around the country, including Des Moines. Two Register reporters, Andrea Sahouri and Katie Akin, can be included in those statistics.
When police arrest or assault a journalist, they can be accused of violating 42 U.S. Code § 1983. The statute protects citizens from being deprived of “any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution.” In the case of reporters, that is freedom of the press.
If journalists are harmed in an assault or arrest, police can be liable criminally and civilly or in a class action. One lawsuit has been filed against the city of Minneapolis, its police department, and other authorities because of alleged actions during Floyd protests.
The federal lawsuit alleges reporters were tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot in the face with rubber bullets, arrested without cause, and threatened at gunpoint, “all after these journalists identified themselves and were otherwise clearly engaged in their reporting duties.”\