Ferguson unrest sees intensifying media clampdown

A protester tries to throw tear gas back at the police in Ferguson, Missouri.

A protester tries to throw tear gas back at the police in Ferguson, Missouri.

Arrests of protestors and media representatives in Ferguson, Missouri, appeared to be ramping this week, as at least four journalists were jailed overnight and police persisted widespread deployment of tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbags in the wake of civil unrest after the August 9 police shooting of unarmed African-American Michael Brown.

By Tuesday morning social media was filled with videos and photographs showing the arrest of veteran Getty photographer Scott Olson, who had been covering Ferguson for a week, and reports on the arrests of Ryan Devereux of The Intercept investigative media, and of two foreign journalists, Ansgar Graw and Frank Herrmann, of the German daily Die Welt .

In all cases the journalists arrested and detained were held for several hours and then released.

Even as increasing numbers of domestic and foreign journalists converged on Ferguson to cover the escalating tensions there between protestors and the police, media arrests began as early as Wednesday last week, when Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post writer Ryan Reilly were briefly jailed without explanation.

By late Sunday night three more reporters - Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated , Chicago-based Financial Times reporter Neil Munshi and Rob Crilly, warzone correspondent for the Telegraph , were arrested too.

The string of arrests came as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered in the National Guard to Ferguson this week, with simmering public anger over an autopsy report for >Brown showing that he was shot six times, including twice in the head, and once at the top of his skull while apparently bending down forward, possibly in a gesture of surrender.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who appeared to maintain a position of deliberate neutrality by issuing a call for calm and restraint to both the police and the protestors, has asked Attorney-General Eric Holder to visit Ferguson on Wednesday to consult with local authorities on the state of the investigation into the shooting of Brown, which is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr. Holder criticised the police’s release of a video purporting to show Brown earlier involved in an unrelated robbery, saying, “The selective release of sensitive information that we have seen in this case so far is troubling to me. No matter how others pursue their own separate inquiries, the Justice Department is resolved to preserve the integrity of its investigation.”

Meanwhile, “unprecedented” criticism of the Ferguson police’s aggressive clampdown came not only from human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but also Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which apparently “trolled” the U.S. saying in a statement to the press that it was urging “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.”

Amnesty also found itself becoming the target of a rare trolling attempt from the Twitter handle of a major U.S. think tank, CSIS, after someone used profanity against the human rights group's efforts to monitor the situation in Ferguson. CSIS later deleted the tweet and apologised for what it said was an "error."

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 11:50:07 pm |