New York, March 10, 2021 — In response to today’s acquittal of Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri by a court in Polk County, Iowa, on two misdemeanor charges stemming from her coverage of protests last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“The acquittal of journalist Andrea Sahouri in Iowa today is a welcome relief, but Polk County prosecutors never should have filed charges against her in the first place,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna. “Reporting is not a crime, and journalists should not be punished for doing their jobs and covering matters of public interest.”
Police pepper-sprayed and arrested Sahouri while she was covering a Black Lives Matter protest in Des Moines on May 31, 2020; the Polk County prosecutor subsequently charged her with failure to disperse and interference with official acts, two simple misdemeanors, according to CPJ reporting and the Des Moines Register. Under Iowa law, simple misdemeanors can carry fines of $65 to $625, as well as up to 30 days in jail.
About a dozen other journalists face ongoing legal action in the United States in relation to their reporting, according to CPJ reporting and CPJ’s partner organization, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.