Compiling 52 accusations of violations of the freedom of the press during the protests in Ferguson, Mo., after the killing of Michael Brown, the PEN American Center said it is calling on the Justice Department to investigate the local police forces' treatment of the news media, reports the New York Times. Such an investigation, a report by the organization said, would “shed essential light on the factors that drove law enforcement officers in Ferguson to infringe on media freedoms,” and should lead to new guidelines from the Justice Department for police departments in the United States “on respect for media freedoms during public demonstrations.” A coalition led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press made such a request earlier.
Examples in the new report included the decision to hold reporters in areas that denied them access to the events they had come to cover, and accusations of flashing lights to hinder photographers and of threats and assaults, culminating in the arrest of 21 journalists. On Friday, a report from Amnesty International highlighted a variety of “human rights concerns” during the Ferguson protests, including the arrest of journalists. The St. Louis County Police Department told the PEN researchers that its officers had “recently undergone training that included an extensive review of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments.” The department said, “Each officer will have a laminated card on them at all times with rights of the press.”