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Three journalists manhandled, injured, arrested outside Republican Party convention

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the way Amy Goodman, the host of the nationally-syndicated radio and TV programme Democracy Now!, and two of her producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were manhandled and arrested by police while covering demonstrations on 1 September 2008 outside the Republican Party convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The press freedom organisation calls for an investigation into the circumstances of their arrest and the immediate withdrawal of the charges brought against them. Although quickly released, Goodman was charged with obstructing a legal process and interfering with a police officer, while her two producers were charged with "felony riot."

"The violence used by the police when arresting these three journalists, who identified themselves as such, was an unacceptable abuse of authority, a violence of the First Amendment and a clear demonstration of a desire to intimidate them and their news organisation," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Democracy Now! has done a lot of very critical reporting about the war in Iraq and it is no coincidence that three of its representatives were treated like this," the press freedom organisation added. "The confirmation of the charges against them compounds the original injustice with another one. The police should be investigating their own ranks."

The three journalists were arrested at about 5:00 p.m. (local time) during anti-war demonstrations being staged by veterans and relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq near the convention centre where the Republican Party is due to confirm Sen. John McCain as its candidate for November's presidential election.

Kouddous and Salazar were the first to be arrested by baton-wielding police. Kouddous was slammed against a wall and then pinned to the ground. Salazar was slammed to the ground. Kouddous sustained injuries to the chest and back. Salazar sustained injuries to her face.

Goodman was arrested when she asked the police why they had arrested her colleagues. Although she identified herself as a journalist, her hands were handcuffed behind her back and then she was led away, as can be seen in a video sequence shot by a bystander.

An Associated Press photographer, Matt Rourke, was also arrested at the same time as several hundred demonstrators.

A committed journalist who is very critical of the Republican government and especially the war in Iraq, Goodman launched Democracy Now! in 1996. Produced in New York by a team of independent journalists, it is syndicated to more than 700 radio and TV stations in the United States and abroad.

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