Police, Protesters Target Journalists
Updated: Feb 7
It is no longer safe to be a journalist in this country.
After four years of Donald Trump denigrating reporters and calling media organizations “the enemy of the people,” we are now seeing the results of his incitement. Law-enforcement officers, predisposed to be Trump supporters, have been caught on camera in recent days illegally arresting and shooting at media members in Minneapolis and firing pepper balls directly at TV reporters in Louisville.
Not caught on camera: More attacks against reporters and photographers by police and protesters.
A free and independent media is referred to as “the fourth estate,” because it is required for a democracy to function properly. Without it, corrupt government officials could do what they please without any oversight.
There has been a degradation in media strength for years at the local level as a result of declining revenues and rapacious private equity firms, who have purchased news organizations, only to gut the staff and flip the business for a quick profit. That has led to situations where local governments, like in the tiny Southern California city of Bell, have been able to loot their towns without anyone paying attention.
Although working conditions have become far more difficult for journalists, in one survey newspaper reporter was ranked as the 200th best job out of 200 for three straight years -- it has always, at minimum, been a relatively safe endeavor in this country. No longer.
Thanks to Trump, the reputation of journalists is at an all-time low, and hatred against us is at an all-time high. He has ginned up the masses at his rallies, called us a variety of derogatory names, openly mocked those among us with physical disabilities, and refused to answer our questions, storming away like a little boy who had his lollipop taken away, when someone deigns to challenge his erratic and often nonsensical decisions.
The domain of attacks against media members is usually reserved for developing countries, where it takes true bravery to be a journalist. According to Reporters Without Borders, 10 journalists have been killed so far this year: Three in Iraq, two in Syria and one each in Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay and Somalia. Those are the countries where it’s supposed to be dangerous to be a reporter, not the United States.
So far during the George Floyd protests, journalists trying to cover the story have been targeted in multiple cities. In Washington, D.C., European Pressphoto Agency photographer Jim Lo Scalzo, the 2016 White House News Photographers Association Photographer of Year, was pepper-sprayed by police.
Vox Media reported more than two-dozen incidents of media members being attacked as of Sunday afternoon. It included photojournalist Linda Tirado, who was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet in Minneapolis, and two members of a Reuters TV crew, who were intentionally targeted by Minneapolis cops.
MSNBC reporter Ali Velshi was shot at indiscriminately on live TV, and police in Louisville aimed their fire directly at local TV reporter Kaitlin Rust. Velshi and his crew reportedly put their hands up in the air and screamed at Minneapolis police to inform them that they were firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the media. The cops shouted back, “We don’t care,” and kept firing.
Fox News reporters have been chased by angry crowds away from protests in Washington, D.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn. , and demonstrators targeted the CNN building in Atlanta.
Perhaps the most egregious example of overreach was when CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his film crew were all arrested Friday morning on an empty Minneapolis street on live TV after they clearly identified themselves and even politely asked where they should go. At least, in that one instance, an apology was given by the governor.
Covering demonstrations has always been a tricky business, but thanks to Trump and his trigger-happy police force, and a general public that has been whipped up into a frenzy, it’s now downright dangerous.