As events continue to unfold in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the death of Michael Brown, RTDNA has recieved reports of journalists being subjected to harassment and restrictions of access to areas of the city not being enforced on the general public. In response, RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender wrote a letter to the city's police chief, urging restraint and calling for cooperation with the media.
August 13, 2014
Mr. Thomas Jackson
Chief of Police
City of Ferguson, MO
VIA EMAIL AND FAX
Dear Chief Jackson:
I’m writing on behalf of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the nation’s largest professional association representing electronic journalists in radio, television and digital news.
While our members and the journalism community as a whole understand your department’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the residents of Ferguson during this time, we strongly object to the conduct of some of your officers, along with that of other law enforcement officials as it impacts journalists. This includes placing undue limits on media access to the affected portions of the community, along with the continuing reports of harassment and undue treatment of reporters, photographers and others involved on-scene, who are providing vital news coverage of the events as they unfold.
These volatile situations require cooperation of all parties engaged in the lawful performance of their respective duties. It is simply unacceptable if any journalists were specifically targeted by anti-riot measures, such as tear gas, rubber bullets or similar tactics. Any such actions would be in direct conflict with reasonable respect for the rights of all involved.
We ask that you take all measures necessary with those under your command, while asking other agencies to do the same, as it relates to ensuring journalists be given full and fair access. We also request that you take all reasonable actions required to provide them with the environment necessary for them to do their jobs. Journalists, in these situations, are fully aware of the security issues involved and understand the risks they take. In assuming those risks, however, they must also be provided with cooperation by law enforcement so that a difficult situation, such as this one, is not further exacerbated through conflict with peace officers.