The Chicago Headline Club is deeply troubled by the action taken this weekend by Chicago police against two TV news staff.
While covering public reaction to a yet another sad loss of life from violence, they were handcuffed and briefly taken into custody near a Chicago hospital. They deny claims from hospital staff that they had attempted to enter hospital property and were removed by police when they were at a distance from the facility.
This careless disregard for reporters’ rights is a violation of our deeply ingrained concepts of freedoms, beginning with the First Amendment. Yet it is also a troubling message to all about the lack of respect for all of our freedoms from those charged with upholding our laws.
Whether being witness at a troubling event such as this or any event important to the public, it’s the responsibility of journalists to see and record what matters so that we can be an informed society. Journalists are not immune from concerns about public security and safety and abide by protections for all. But that was not the issue here.
Everyday journalists are involved in covering events where some would simply prefer we are not on hand. That, however, is not possible thanks to our laws.
In a recent case involving a photographer arrested while covering a public event, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote:
“The fact that a photographer, or any journalist, can be arrested and charged with a felony simply for being present to report on unarguably newsworthy events is beyond troubling: it’s chilling.”
We are similarly troubled by what happened here and look forward to discussions with Chicago Police officials to avoid any future misapplications of their law enforcement powers.
Far more importantly, let’s work together to focus on what we can do so that a six-year-old child is not fatally struck by a random bullet.
Stephen Franklin, president, the Chicago Headline Club