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DC’s Top Federal Prosecutor Condemns Violence Against Journalists at Capitol Riot

January 12, 2021 by Dan McCue
(Associated Press Photo)

WASHINGTON – The top federal prosecutor in Washington said Tuesday investigators are aware of multiple reports of reporters being assaulted and otherwise abused during last Wednesday’s siege at the U.S. Capitol and vowed to bring the guilty parties to justice.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker said late last week that it had confirmed at least nine reports of assaults, five reports of arrests or detainments and multiple reports of equipment damage, threats and harassment in connection with the storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

News organizations whose reporters and camera people were subjected to the violence included representatives of The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and the Associated Press.

Even as reporters tried to ignore the danger and work around the mayhem, someone scrawled “Murder the Media” on a door at the Capitol.

The incidents were condemned by industry groups including the National Press Photographers Association, which called the incidents “a reminder of the dangers journalists both in the U.S. and around the world face every day while simply trying to do their jobs.”

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the attack on the Capitol and the reporters who cover it “posed a grave threat to our democracy.”

“Murder the Media” scrawled on an exterior hall at the Capitol.

“We owe a particular debt of gratitude to the professional and brave journalists and photographers who risked their safety to document the events as they unfolded,” Brown said. “Like members of Congress, their staff and others who work in the Capitol complex, these reporters work daily in those buildings, and an assault on the Capitol is an assault on them, too.

“We are deeply disturbed at the attacks, threats and rhetoric that we saw targeting reporters yesterday,” he continued. “Rioters at the Capitol called for violence against members of the news media, destroyed news equipment and verbally harassed journalists as the ‘enemy of the people’ — actions that not only pose a dire threat to those working tirelessly to bring information to our communities, but also to the press freedom that is a bedrock value of our nation.”

Leaders at the Society of Professional Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the National Press Club and National Press Club Journalism Institute called on authorities to investigate the incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable

“Journalists are witnesses and rarely in the history of our country has the work of reporters been more important than on Jan. 6, 2021, in documenting the deadly insurrection that nearly toppled our government,” said National Press Club President Michael Freedman and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane in a joint statement.

“They are important chroniclers of democracy. Press freedom is a key tenet of American democracy and democracies worldwide. Journalists’ ability to do their jobs and operate unimpeded by threats and violence is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Any attempt to interfere with that right should be investigated and wrongdoers prosecuted,” the statement continued.

“Last week’s insurrection was a direct result of a dangerous misinformation campaign spread by President Trump, members of his administration, and several of his most fervent supporters in Congress,” Freedman and Keane said. “The attacks on the press covering the scene last Wednesday were driven by President Trump’s repeated rejection of truth and his demonization of the purveyors of it.”

On Tuesday, Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia responded by saying “Such violence will not be tolerated.”

“We are resolutely committed to upholding the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, including speech, peaceful assembly, and press, and we will investigate, prosecute, and hold accountable anyone who attempts to obstruct or curtail these freedoms through violence or intimidation,” Sherwin said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is inviting members of the press to report any instances where a reporter, journalist, photographer, videographer, or other member of the press or broadcast media was the victim of an assault, threat, or property damage during the events of Jan. 6 at the United States Capitol. 

Such information, including video and photographic evidence, can be emailed to USADC.CAPITOLRIOTS-PRESS-INJURY-DAMAGE@usdoj.gov.

“As appropriate, a prosecutor or law enforcement agent may follow up for further information,” Sherwin said. “We will spare no effort to bring to justice all those who committed lawless and violent acts of any kind, including against members of the media.”

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