Occupy Wall Street protesters clashed with police this morning. (AP)
Occupy Wall Street protesters clashed with police this morning. (AP)

Journalists obstructed from covering OWS protests

New York, November 15, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by today’s reports of New York City police mistreating and detaining journalists and obstructing them from covering events at the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“We are alarmed by New York law enforcement’s treatment of journalists covering the eviction of Occupy Wall Street today,” said Carlos Lauria, CPJ senior coordinator for the Americas. “Journalists must be allowed to cover news events without fear of arrest and harassment. It is particularly disturbing that government officials sought to block any coverage of the event at all.”

At least seven journalists were arrested in New York today, according to press reports. Early this morning, freelancer Julie Walker was detained for several hours after covering the arrests of demonstrators during the eviction from Zuccotti Park, NPR said. The New York Daily News reported that Walker was wearing her NYPD-issued press pass at the time of her arrest. She was charged with disorderly conduct and later posted on Twitter that she was out of jail and back to covering the protests.

Jared Malsin, reporter for the East Village community blog The Local, wrote that he had been arrested at the protest after identifying himself as a journalist using a press pass he said “had been issued for an unrelated assignment by the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit of the United Nations in September.” He was later released and charged with disorderly conduct.

The Associated Press reported that AP writer Karen Matthews and AP photographer Seth Wenig were arrested this afternoon while they were covering demonstrations a mile north of Zuccotti Park. The Daily News‘ Matthew Lysiak wrote that he was also taken into custody at the same demonstration.

News website DNAinfo reported that Patrick Hedlund, its news editor, and Paul Lomax, a contributing freelance photographer, were both detained despite having NYPD-issued press passes. Hedlund was arrested at 6 a.m. outside of Zuccotti Park, while Lomax was arrested later in the day at the demonstrations north of Zuccotti Park, according to the news website.

Several media outlets reported being blocked from covering the dismantling of the Occupy Wall Street camp. NY1’s Pat Kiernan posted on Twitter, “Our crews had a very difficult time moving around between 1 am and 4 am. Press passes seemed not to impress the cops on scene.” Mother Jones magazine reporter Josh Harkinson wrote that a police officer told him he was not allowed to be in the park and that when he refused to leave, the officer dragged him out of the park.

Chris Glorioso, a journalist with TV news channel NBC New York, was escorted away from the scene by a police officer, NBC New York said. According to the news channel, a NYPD representative told the news crew, “Right now, this is where you guys are allowed to be,” referring to the space outside of the park.

Some of the journalists described being handled roughly by law enforcement. The New York Times reported that members of the media were shoved by the police. Lindsey Christ, a reporter for the TV channel NY1, told the Times she witnessed police officers put a New York Post reporter “in a choke-hold.”

NYPD representatives were not immediately available for comment about the arrests and alleged rough treatment of media staff. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference today that the media was not allowed onto the scene in order to “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.” The AP reported that the NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for a comment outlining its policies toward journalists and couldn’t immediately say how many journalists were arrested.

Prior to today’s events, at least seven U.S. journalists had been detained and one television crew attacked by U.S. law enforcement officers while covering the Occupy protests across the country. Many of those journalists were allegedly arrested for not having official press passes. In two other instances, Occupy demonstrators attacked journalists.