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U.S. Journalists' dismissal from university grounds prompts discussion on media in public settings

This statement was originally published on on 11 November 2015.

The International Press Institute (IPI)'s North American Committee today lauded the discussion of journalists' rights in public settings that has arisen since Monday, when protestors at the University of Missouri calling for greater respect for civil rights sought to prevent journalists from reporting from a public area on campus that the protestors were occupying.

Activists celebrating the resignation of the university's president and its chancellor in the face of criticism over the school's handling of a series of recent race-related incidents forced at least two journalists off the school's quad after deeming the public area as a "safe space" that was off-limits to media.

The incident, and the involvement of a member of the University's communications faculty on the side of the activists, led to wide-ranging discussions yesterday in the United States about press freedom – the second such discussion in just over a year centring on the state of Missouri, where police in August 2014 were widely criticised for their treatment of journalists covering demonstrations that followed a fatal police shooting in the town of Ferguson.

Although the individuals involved in Monday's incident and the actions they took were markedly different from tactics used by police last year in Ferguson, IPI's North American Committee said the discussions that the latest incident sparked were no less important in terms of underscoring the need to respect and uphold all of the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

"The North American Committee lauds the discussion about the rights of journalists in the United States to cover stories in public settings,” the Committee said today in a statement. “Not only is this a teachable moment for these students at the University of Missouri, but a reminder that Freedom of the Press is a right that benefits all Americans, as well as everyone around the world. A free media means journalists must be free from all intimidations and bullying. The nobility of a cause does not cancel out the rights of journalists to cover a story.”

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