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Journalist arrested during Republican National Convention faces over one year in prison for parole violations

(RSF/IFEX) - On 15 October 2008, Reporters Without Borders asked a judge to show clemency for journalist Jason Nicholas, independent photographer for the "New York Post", currently in jail in Rikers Island, NY for parole violation. Nicholas was scheduled for another parole hearing in front of an administrative judge on 15 October. He was one of over 40 journalists arrested while covering the Republican National Convention on 1 September. While most charges against other journalists in St. Paul have been dropped, Nicholas has not yet been cleared of charges of "obstruction to the legal process".

"These pending charges are hurting his chances of being restored to parole," commented his lawyer Wylie Stecklow. "Jason is a remarkable example of successful rehabilitation. He did not break his parole with any intention to commit a criminal act. He was at the Convention working, which is actually a positive thing. The violation should be seen as a technical one and the penalty should reflect that. Otherwise, the public's faith in the true integrity of the correctional and parole systems would be jeopardized."

"The fact that Jason Nicholas didn't have the appropriate paperwork to travel to another state is not a sufficient reason to send him to jail. To be able to carry out his work, a journalist needs to be able to travel freely. At the end of the day, it is absurd that Jason Nicholas would be imprisoned for the very activity that confirms its full reintegration to society," stated Reporters Without Borders.

The international press freedom organization has written to the administrative judge presiding over Nicholas's case asking that the charges in Minnesota not influence his decision and that the journalist be released. "Jason should not have been arrested for simply doing his job. We have denounced the arrests of reporters in Minneapolis as overzealous and abusive. The fact that Jason Nicholas has not been cleared as the other reporters were is incomprehensible and unfair," said the press freedom organization. "While we do understand that there must be repercussions to any parole contravention, we believe that in this case the penalty should fit the violation."

Nicholas, who has already spent more than 4 weeks in prison, faces up to 14 months in prison.

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