More journalists have been attacked, threatened and detained in Ferguson, MO. Scott Olsen, the Getty photographer who brought us some of the most stirring images from the Ferguson protests, and The Intercept's Ryan Devereaux were arrested in Ferguson last night. Devereaux and fellow reporters were shouting "Press, Press, Press" when they were shot with bean bags and rubber pellets:
Two German reporters were also arrested last night. Last night's arrests follow arrests late Sunday night of three other journalists on the order of a Missouri Highway Patrol Captain and the arrest of two reporters last week (Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, for not packing up their equipment fast enough.
These threats to the First Amendment in Ferguson spotlight a war on the press that the Obama administration. The natural outgrowth of the Obama administration's using the Espionage Act to bring a record number of prosecutions against so-called "leakers," who are usually really whistleblowers, the war on information and war on the press.
After the first Ferguson reporters were arrested, President Obama held a press conference:
“And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground,” he said.
Politicians can be wizards at spouting off hypocritical double-speak with a straight face, but Obama's statement was absurd enough to surprise even the most cynical Washington players. The statement's hypocrisy was on fully display particularly given that it occurred on the very same day press freedom and free speech groups held a press conference supporting New York Times
reporter James Risen, who is under threat of jail of bankrupting fines at the hand of the Obama administration, which has fought for years to force Risen to testify about his confidential sources.
Watch the pres conference here:
The "policy" for press covering Ferguson is ridiculously broad, and, from the number of arrests - and shooting with non-lethal rounds - of journalists, Ferguson authorities are interpreting the "exceptions" as broadly as they can to stop the press:
The Justice Department similarly interprets - or misinterprets - its own "policies" preventing threatening journalists with jail to force them to testify about their sources. The Justice Department repeatedly argued (incorrectly) in court that there is no legal privilege between a reporter and his or her sources. Risen faces bankrupting fines or jail. Meanwhile, in other "leak" investigations the Obama administration secretly seized Associated Press phone records impacting over 100 journalists, and posited to a court that a reporter (James Rosen) was a co-conspirator or aider and abetter to violate the Espionage Act because he obtained information from a source (a.k.a. did his job). Additionally, whatever you think of Wikileaks, it is certainly a threat to the free press for the Justice Department to criminally investigate Wikileaks for publishing information from whistleblowers.
As the justifiable outrage from media and the public boils over with each new journalist arrest in Ferguson, remember that this war on journalists has been simmering in the U.S. for quite a while.