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Reporters arrested for covering protest against military

Russia Today correspondent Kaelyn Forde is arrested while covering a protest near the Fort Benning army base in Columbus, Georgia, last week
Russia Today correspondent Kaelyn Forde is arrested while covering a protest near the Fort Benning army base in Columbus, Georgia, last week

Russia Today

A reporter and cameraman for an English-language, Moscow-based TV channel were arrested while covering protests near the Fort Benning military base in Columbus, Georgia, last week, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). A local community radio journalist was also arrested, despite having press credentials, says RSF.

Russia Today correspondent Kaelyn Forde and cameraman Jon Conway, both U.S. nationals, were covering an annual protest staged by activists hoping to close the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the School of the Americas), a U.S. military centre accused of training Latin American police and military personnel to torture and kill. (School of the Americas graduates from El Salvador were implicated in the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, says CPJ.)

Forde and Conway were detained on 20 November along with a group of protesters when they refused a police order to disperse. They were charged with unlawful assembly, demonstrating without a permit and failing to obey a police order.

After nearly 32 hours in custody, the journalists were fined and released, according to CPJ.

Forde speaks about her arrest and police brutality in a Russia Today video that can be found on YouTube. "I thought that this would never happen in my country, and that the First Amendment protects us," she said. "But the only thing our lawyers could negotiate was jail time, and we were forced to accept a guilty verdict without any sort of due process whatsoever. As journalists, our freedoms were under attack."

Officers can be seen arresting Forde on the video. Forde was compliant, even as she persisted in asking officers why she was being arrested.

Community radio journalist Cecelia Kluding, 17, of Boulder, Colorado, was also arrested, says RSF.

"Journalists must be able to cover public demonstrations," said CPJ. "Police in Columbus, Georgia, should carry out an internal investigation into this incident and in the future should implement procedures to ensure that journalists are able to do their jobs without interference."

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