June 1, 2020
We, the faculty and student press associations of the Journalism Department of California State University, Northridge, express our deepest concern over the deliberate attacks on journalists by law enforcement agencies in recent days.
Collectively, we demand that police forces in Los Angeles and across the nation respect the right of journalists to do their job – a civil liberty protected by the First Amendment – and stop the violence against and arrests of journalists covering protests. Journalists are shielded from government interference in their expression by the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, we vigorously encourage our elected representatives to strengthen the penalties for injuring journalists in the course of their work.
Journalism is crucial in a democratic society because an independent press is tasked with monitoring abuses by any of the three branches of government, covering its actions and holding it accountable to the people.
In the last four days, according to NiemanLab, police in the United States have attacked journalists at least 100 times. Police attacks on the press are nothing new during periods of social unrest or war, but what is new and alarming is the scale of the attacks and the intentional nature of several of them.
For example, a KPCC reporter in Los Angeles, Adolfo Guzmán López, reported a police attack against him on Twitter, highlighting how he was targeted: “I just got hit by a rubber bullet near the bottom of my throat,” he wrote. “I had just interviewed a man with my phone at 3rd and Pine and a police officer aimed and shot me in the throat.”
Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske posted on social media the story of a group of a dozen or more reporters, including herself and Times photographer Carolyn Cole, who were tear gassed by the Minnesota State patrol in Minneapolis after having identified themselves as press.
Later, in an article published by the Times, Hennessy-Fiske – a veteran war correspondent – chronicled how the reporters escaped the attack, and concluded: “I’ve covered protests involving police in Ferguson, Mo., Baton Rouge, La., Dallas and Los Angeles. I’ve also covered the U.S. military in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. I have never been fired at by police until tonight.”
The CSUN Journalism Department faculty along with its student journalism organizations, CSUN Latino Journalists, and chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association and Asian American Journalists Association, express our solidarity with all journalists from our local and national media, including freelancers, who have been attacked by law enforcement and prevented from their work.
Together, journalists, journalism educators and journalism students must confront any attempt to infringe on the rights of journalists to keep our society informed at this critical time.
Julio-Cesar Chavez and Michael Anthony Adams
CSUN alumnus Julio Cortez’ “AP photo of flag-bearing protester rockets around the world”
UN Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement