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Drop charges against Inauguration Day journos!

AS WE went to press, at least three freelance or "independent" journalists arrested covering the Washington DC protests at the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January were facing sentences of up to ten years after being arrested and charged with "felony rioting".

The journalists were among seven reporters arrested and charged during "J20", anti-Trump protests on January 20, despite showing their accreditation. One has his camera seized by police. Four of the journalists arrested at the event have since had charges dropped.

Several NUJ freelances covered the events (avoiding arrest), see for example Jason N. Parkinson's footage. Journalists were targeted by police with stock grenades and CS gas spray. An eyewitness reported a member of the press was struck in the neck by a rubber bullet.

The US National Lawyers Guild has claimed that the use of tear gas by DC police during the protest was illegal, with protestors "indiscriminately targeted because of their location." The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), of which the NUJ is part, has condemned the charges as "unacceptable in a democracy."

Some of those were eventually had charges dropped were charged several days after events during which well over 200 people in total were arrested. Scott C Rodd, a DC-based freelance journalist, has appealed for any information on possible "other journalists known to have been arrested and charged while covering the Inauguration Day protests", so there could be more charges against journalists to come.

There's a petition calling on US District Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing D. Phillips and his spokesman William Miller to drop the charges against reporter Aaron Cantu and photographers Shay Horse and Alexander Stokes Contompasis (146,000 signatures at the time of writing). Please sign it and circulate it, it's at www.change.org/p/u-s-attorney-channing-d-phillips-drop-felony-charges-against-journalists-who-covered-inauguration-day-protests.

  • NUJ President and Freelance columnist Tim Dawson describes strange encounters in the Houses of Parliament as part of the NUJ's efforts in support of the - at least - 29 media workers jailed in Egypt. See his report here..