Washington D.C., September 16, 2020 — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department should immediately drop all charges against journalist Josie Huang, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On the evening of September 12, sheriff’s deputies tackled and arrested Huang, a reporter for a National Public Radio member station KPCC and local news website LAist, while she was covering officers making an arrest, according to news reports, posts on Twitter by the journalist, and video of the incident made public by breaking news company onescene.tv.
Deputies detained Huang for approximately five hours before releasing her with a citation for obstructing a police officer, according to Huang’s posts on Twitter and a copy of the citation seen by CPJ.
If convicted of obstructing police, a misdemeanor, Huang could face a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or both, according to the California penal code.
“It is outrageous that law enforcement officials would turn on reporter Josie Huang and aggressively detain her while she was doing her job and documenting an arrest,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna, in New York. “The decision to detain and then arrest Huang, even though she clearly identified herself as a journalist, is unfathomable. Charges against her must be immediately dropped and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department should apologize for such behavior toward a journalist.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tweeted the morning following Huang’s arrest that she did not identify herself as a member of the press and that she “later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person.” However, in a video Huang filmed while she was being arrested, she can be heard clearly identifying herself as a reporter for KPCC.
Huang wrote on Twitter that she had attended a press conference led by L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva at the St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles’s Lynwood neighborhood and had just gotten in her car to head home when she heard shouting. Huang wrote that she got out of her car and went to investigate what was happening.
On Twitter, Huang said that she was wearing a press ID around her neck, and followed deputies down the street and filmed as they arrested an individual.
The deputies suddenly told Huang to back up and, “Within seconds, I was getting shoved around. There was nowhere to back up,” she wrote. The video published by onescene.tv shows deputies throwing Huang to the ground and arresting her. She also tweeted that the officers stomped on her phone and damaged it, but did not break it.
CPJ called the sheriff’s department for comment and was told by the person who answered that they are not answering questions at this time because there is an ongoing investigation. In an emailed statement to CPJ, Deputy Grade Medrano, a department spokesperson, said the sheriff’s department was aware of the incident, and that an active investigation was underway, but would not comment further.