For 100 days, reporters have been covering protests that often turn violent in Oregon’s largest city. In the chaos, some journalists have been injured or arrested despite press freedoms laid out in the First Amendment, the Associated Press reports. The clash led to a lawsuit against federal authorities sent in to help local police in July. Reporters — whether they’re from major media outlets, freelancers or self-proclaimed “citizen journalists” — say they are doing their job and law enforcement is hindering that work. Police say protesters have masqueraded as journalists and then set fires or thrown fireworks, making it a struggle to figure out who is a real reporter.
Sergio Olmos, a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting, has been covering the Portland protests for months and has reported from other demonstrations in the city and civil unrest around the world. He said reporters have been treated differently during protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Olmos said police went from viewing reporters as professionals and neutral observers to treating them like demonstrators. While covering Portland’s protests, he says he has been pushed to the ground by police, hit in the lip with a baton and tear gassed. According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, made up of more than two dozen press freedom groups, over 740 aggressions against journalists have been reported during national Black Lives Matter protests this year. “Who is a journalist and who isn’t a journalist? Well, here is my definition: You are a journalist if you are committing journalism — if you are there at the scene of the news to collect information and present it to an audience in journalistic form,” said Patricia Gallagher Newberry, president of the Society of Professional Journalists.