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Is North Dakota out to intimidate media?

Amy Goodman at a G8 protest in 2012
Amy Goodman at a G8 protest in 2012

Steve Rhodes via flickr

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 12 September 2016.

Prosecutors in the U.S. state of North Dakota should immediately drop all criminal charges against broadcast journalist Amy Goodman, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Goodman, who hosts the global news program Democracy Now!, faces criminal trespass charges in connection with her reporting on protests against the construction of an oil pipeline opposed by Native American tribes in the region.

The warrant, issued September 8, followed Goodman's filming of security guards using dogs and pepper spray to disperse protesters seeking to stop the construction of the pipeline, according to Democracy Now! and National Public Radio. Both protesters and security guards were injured in the September 3 clash, according to the reports.

The Morton County's Sherriff's Department issued a statement saying that protesters entered private land after breaking down a fence, according to the NPR report. Democracy Now! reported on its website that an officer from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation acknowledged in an affidavit that Goodman is seen in the video identifying herself as a journalist and interviewing protesters. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Goodman could face a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail.

"This arrest warrant is a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest," said Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ. "Authorities in North Dakota should stop embarrassing themselves, drop the charges against Amy Goodman, and ensure that all reporters are free to do their jobs."

The complaint also cites Cody Charles Hall, a protest organizer, whom police arrested September 9 in a traffic stop. Hall was denied bail and jailed over the weekend, according to press reports.

A spokeswoman for the Morton County State's Attorney Office said that the attorneys at the office were in court, and that no one was available to comment on the issuance of the arrest warrant. The spokeswoman declined to give her name.

"This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press," Goodman said in a statement cited on Democracy Now. "I was doing my job by covering pipeline guards unleashing dogs and pepper spray on Native American protesters."

The company Energy Transfer Partners hopes the pipeline will carry crude oil from North Dakota to the U.S. state of Illinois, across land near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Protesters say the project risks polluting the water supply, and would run through burial sites and other locations they hold sacred, according to press reports.

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