You wouldn’t think handling a notebook or a camera could be a hazardous line of work. But according to the latest global Press Freedom Index, abuse and oppression of reporters has made journalism an increasingly risky job in many countries. The past year has even left a notable taint on the U.S. press, despite the country’s mythos as a beacon of free expression.
While the United States certainly hasn’t descended into the ranks of the most oppressive regimes, the watchdog group Reporters without Borders observes that in 2011 the political barriers and outright attacks facing reporters had led to a steep drop in the rankings—27 places down, to number 47:
In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.
The most high-profile violations of press freedom took place during the Occupy protests, as reporters were abused by police and otherwise stonewalled by authorities.
Ever-faithful to his 1% cronies, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg moved swiftly to restrict press coverage of Occupy Wall Street actions, barring journalists from Zuoccotti Park. Authorities justified the “media blackout” by insisting that the purpose was “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.” The safety assurances presumably weren’t much comfort to the many reporters who got roughed up and arrested while trying to do their jobs.
But as usual, the crackdowns only challenged activists to push back more fiercely as digital images and reports of police brutality and oppression went viral. And much of the heavy lifting was accomplished by a deft, if somewhat chaotic, grassroots media sphere.
Josh Stearns at Free Press tracked dozens of arrests across several Occupy cities through Twitter dispatches.
From cartoonist and journalist Susie Cagle (an occasional contributor to this website), who was arrested during the Occupy Oakland strike actions and “held for over 14 hours”: Read the rest of this entry →