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Journalist arbitrarily detained in U.S. for covering protest

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 17 November 2015.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the arbitrary arrest of local reporter Jack Highberger on Monday evening while he was covering a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Jack Highberger, an emmy-award winning reporter for Fox 9 (KMSP-TV) in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, was arrested Monday evening while covering a Black Lives Matter protest on the side of highway I-94.

A video posted on his facebook page depicts him speaking into a microphone and covering the arrest of several protesters around him. The video then captures his own arrest by an officer who told him “you've gotta get going or you're going to be next...we already told you many times to get out of here.”

According to the Hennepin County police station, he was charged with unlawful assembly and spent several hours in detention. He is due to appear in court on November 24.

Once released, Highberger posted the video of his arrest and stated in a comment that “like all the other journalists on the side of I-94 Monday night, I was there for one reason. To do my job. I have no intention of stopping.”

Although Highberger's arrest and the arrest of the protesters around him were conducted peacefully, it is very concerning that a reporter was taken into custody when he was clearly not part of the protest.

“The United States, the country of the First Amendment, cannot afford to keep journalists from reporting. The ability of reporters to freely report should not be hindered by arbitrary arrests”, affirms Delphine Halgand, the US Director of Reporters Without Borders. “We urge the US authorities to not leave police abuses unpunished and to do everything possible to guarantee the safety of American journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned the charges filed by the St. Louis County Police Department in August against two journalists who covered last year's protests surrounding Michael Brown's death in Ferguson.

At least two journalists were attacked or arrested by police during the Baltimore protests surrounding Freddie Gray's death between April 12 and April 28 of this year.

These events mark an alarming trend of curtailing freedom of the press in the United States. Since 2013, the U.S.'s ranking on Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index has fallen by 14 points. It is now ranked 49 out of 180 countries.

Jack Highberger and Fox 9 (KMSP-TV) have not yet answered our interview requests.

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