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REPORTERS ARRESTED WHILE COVERING POLITICAL CONVENTIONS

Three journalists from the popular U.S. public TV and radio programme "Democracy Now!" and a photographer from The Associated Press (AP) were manhandled and arrested while covering anti-war demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota on 1 September, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and local media groups.

"Democracy Now!" radio host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have all been released, but still face charges - Goodman has been charged with obstruction, while felony riot charges are pending against Kouddous and Salazar.

AP photographer Matt Rourke was also arrested during the protests. "Covering news is a constitutionally protected activity, and covering a riot is part of that coverage," said David Ake, an AP assistant bureau chief in Washington.

According to "Democracy Now!", Kouddous was slammed against a wall and pinned to the ground, sustaining wounds to his arms, chest and back. Salazar was slammed to the ground while yelling, "I'm Press!", resulting in a bloody nose.

Goodman was aggressively arrested while attempting to free her colleagues. Her arrest was captured on film ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ ). Goodman is a respected independent journalist in the U.S. Just last month, she was announced the winner of the World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) Communication for Peace Award.

"We are concerned that police in St. Paul prevented journalists from covering a breaking story," says CPJ. "All four journalists were clearly there to do their jobs. We urge authorities to drop any pending charges and allow journalists to continue with their work."

Police arrested more than 250 people during Monday's event, AP reported. Up to 10,000 people took part in a peaceful anti-war march, but small groups broke windows, slashed tires and harassed delegates. Officers reportedly used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force to dispel the protesters.

Earlier in the weekend, police "pre-empted" protests by raiding a meeting of the video journalists' group I-Witness - with firearms drawn - to arrest independent media, bloggers and videomakers.

U.S. media reform group Free Press is circulating a public letter addressed to St. Paul's mayor, the RNC host committee and local prosecuting attorneys demanding that charges be dropped and press intimidation cease immediately. In less than 24 hours, it has already collected more than 35,000 signatures. Add your name here: http://tinyurl.com/55jlsg

Meanwhile, at the Democratic National Convention last week, CPJ reported that police arrested ABC News producer Asa Eslocker as he and his crew were trying to film Democratic Party officials and donors leaving a private meeting at Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado.

Eslocker was investigating the role of lobbyists and top donors at the Democratic National Convention. Police told ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference and failure to follow a lawful order.

Video taken at the scene on 27 August shows a Boulder County Sheriff's Department officer ordering Eslocker off the "hotel's" sidewalk. He then pushes Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. When Eslocker returned to the sidewalk two hours later, he was aggressively handcuffed by a Denver police sergeant accompanied by a team of five other officers.

The producer and crew were "only on the sidewalk and not in the hotel," ABC News told CPJ. "We were simply doing our job, trying to document the convergence of big money and politics ... Our producer was acting appropriately and just doing his job."

Eslocker was released on 28 August after posting $500 bond.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/5bf7xo
- CPJ on ABC News producer during Democratic Convention (including video of arrest): http://tinyurl.com/5e8uqb
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF): http://tinyurl.com/6ltuzm
- "Democracy Now!": http://tinyurl.com/5arvg5
- Video of Goodman's arrest: http://tinyurl.com/59ndue
- AP on AP arrest: http://tinyurl.com/63887u
- Other journalists being arrested (on The UpTake): http://theuptake.org/
- Video of police raid of I-Witness journalists: http://tinyurl.com/5af7fa
- Goodman speaks about her detention on The Real News Network: http://tinyurl.com/6n3dvz
- WACC: http://tinyurl.com/5hgzeo
- FreePress.net petition: http://tinyurl.com/55jlsg
(Photo: Police clash with protesters at anti-war demonstration outside Republican National Convention in St. Paul, 1 September. Photo taken by AP photographer Matt Rourke, who was later arrested)

(3 September 2008)

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