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Journalists covering Occupy Wall Street detained, beaten and pepper sprayed

With the NYPD having the right to decide who qualifies as a journalist, at least three reporters have been arrested and two others assaulted while covering the protests
With the NYPD having the right to decide who qualifies as a journalist, at least three reporters have been arrested and two others assaulted while covering the protests

With the New York Police Department (NYPD) having the right to decide who does and who does not qualify as a journalist, at least three reporters have been arrested and two others assaulted while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Since the protests began in late September, reporters arrested for not having a press card include John Farley, a journalist with "MetroFocus" magazine, Natasha Lennard, a freelance contributor to "The New York Times" blog, and Kristen Gwynne, a freelancer with the news website Alternet.

Reporters wishing to cover the demonstrations must meet certain requirements to be granted press accreditation from the NYPD, including having published or broadcasted breaking news at least six times in the past year, says RSF.

The requirements leave out new journalists, reporters who don't normally cover breaking news and media workers with online publications that may not be considered official media, according to the Knight Center for Journalism in Americas.

On top of that, however, RSF objects that the police department is the body issuing press cards in the first place. "Since when is a police department equipped to determine who is and who is not a journalist?" the organisation asks. "This NYPD filtering violates the most elementary constitutional guarantees."

Meanwhile, other journalists have been assaulted while trying to report on the thousands-strong demonstrations. Cameraman Roy Isen with "Fox 5" was pepper sprayed in the eyes, while his colleague, reporter Dick Brennan, was hit by a police baton, says RSF. The police said the assaults were "inadvertent," according to the Knight Center.

The presence of media is all the more important given the news reports of hundreds of demonstrators being arrested in the U.S. and videos of police officers beating and pepper spraying peaceful protesters. Many of the hundreds of protesters arrested were seemingly targeted because they were filming or photographing, says Farley, one of the detained journalists. The NYPD has denied those with cameras are being singled out, however.

In other troubling news, emails containing the words "Occupy Wall Street" were blocked in Yahoo's email service, reports RSF, sourcing news blog ThinkProgress. According to "Fast Company", Yahoo admitted to the fact that Occupy protest-related emails were not getting through but claimed the problem was "not intentional" and would be resolved.

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