In a shockingly brazen display of authoritarianism, police arrested a CNN reporter named Omar Jimenez the other day while he was live on air covering the protest of George Floyd’s murder by police in Minneapolis.
The arrest was preceded by hours of sycophantic police-worshipping CNN coverage and followed by days of self-righteous preening by the entire corporate media machine about the crucial role of journalism in a free society, with one Washington Post article going so far as to compare the CNN crew to George Floyd himself. Unlike Floyd, Jimenez was back on camera an hour later giving glowing reviews to the police who’d just inexcusably arrested him.
Inadvertently revealing interview with the reporter arrested live on air by police in Minnesota for doing his job. We saw them behave like fascists, but he’s desperate not to criticise the police in case he loses his *access*. That’s what a ‘free press’ in the US is all about https://t.co/Sy6lV9Y5R2
— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) May 29, 2020
In its report on Jimenez’s arrest, The New York Times made a claim that was truly shocking in its inaccuracy and naivety.
“It is common in autocratic countries for journalists to be swept up in arrests during protests and riots, but rare in the United States, where news gathering is protected by the First Amendment,” claimed the article’s authors Michael Grynbaum and Marc Santora.
Independent reporters were quick to point out the absurdity of the claim.
“I’ve been reporting on protests for a few years now and I can say for sure that journalists being ‘swept up in arrests during protests and riots’ isn’t anywhere near ‘rare’,” tweeted independent journalist Ashoka Jegroo in response.
“The New York Times falsely and bizarrely stated today that journalists are rarely arrested at protests in the United States,” responded journalist Ford Fischer, who consistently covers US protests of all sorts.
“That’s news to me…….. because I was arrested multiple times at protests,” tweeted We Are Change’s Luke Rudkowski.
“As an independent journalist who was arrested during the Eric Garner and Mike Brown protests in NYC, I’ll say this: Omar Jimenez’s experience is a common and understood risk independent journalists take (especially POC journos) in the US,” tweeted Andrew J Padilla. “Power to Omar Jimenez but sadly this is not a shock.”
lol I’ve been reporting on protests for a few years now & I can say for sure that journalists being “swept up in arrests during protests and riots” isn’t anywhere near “rare.” https://t.co/0PsIdNYk2Q pic.twitter.com/dGum41wZPc
— Ash J (@AshAgony) May 29, 2020
Indeed, only an insulated corporate media writer who is entirely unacquainted with protests in the United States would ever believe such a thing is rare. It may be rare for well-paid reporters on a major platform to be arrested live on national television, but you’ll find many reports of many journalists being routinely “swept up” in any major protest anywhere in America in recent years.
“The most dangerous place to be a journalist in America is at a protest,” reported the Columbia Journalism Review back in 2017. “That’s a key early takeaway from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a nonpartisan website launched in August that documents press freedom incidents around the country. As of mid-September, the database had logged 20 arrests and 21 physical attacks on journalists this year, most of them at public demonstrations.”
It should surprise no one, then, that this image The New York Times paints for us — the image of the United States as a journalism-revering enemy of autocratic oppression — has been turned into a complete joke in a matter of hours by subsequent events.
“My Freedom of the Press colleagues at the US Press Freedom Tracker are investigating over twenty press freedom violations just from the last two days: reporters arrested, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets,” reads a recent tweet from Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm, who then added, “Did I say twenty? It’s more likely double or triple that — and disturbingly, probably many more by the end of the night.”
If you’re a reporter affected, help us document it here: https://t.co/z1gHnqM01V
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) May 31, 2020
To list just a few of the known occurrences in the last 24 hours of this thing which, according to The New York Times, only occurs in autocratic nations:
A WCCO photojournalist named Tom Aviles was arrested covering the protest in Minneapolis while clearly identifying himself as a member of the press, after being struck with a rubber bullet.
A Huffington Post reporter named Christopher Mattias was arrested and jailed covering the protest in New York while clearly wearing his press credentials around his neck.
The Convo Couch’s Fiorella Isabel was arrested, handcuffed and cited while reporting on the protest in Los Angeles. “They didn’t care I was press,” Isabel reported. “They put the cuffs on so tight my hand is super red and they treated everyone like criminals.”
Two photojournalists named Ellen Schmidt and Bridget Bennett were arrested while covering the protest in Las Vegas and had to post a $1000 cash bond to be released.
An NBC journalist named Simon Moya-Smith was pepper sprayed and arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest, despite repeatedly identifying himself as a reporter multiple times.
A CNN commentator and columnist named Keith Boykin was arrested and jailed for six hours covering the protest in New York. “The police locked me in tight zip ties that bruised my wrists. They held me in a van for an hour. Then a hot police bus for an hour. Then they took me to 1 Police Plaza and held me in a jail cell with about 35 others with no social distancing and many of the others unmasked,” Boykin reports.
Mind you these are just arrests from the past day. This isn’t even touching on the many journalists who’ve been shot by police with rubber bullets, pepper balls and pepper spray while identifying themselves as members of the press during these protests.
This is all in the United States, where these things do not happen. Because the United States is not an autocratic country.
I was pepper-sprayed then arrested last night by Minneapolis PD even after identifying myself as a reporter MULTIPLE times:
Cop 1: *checks press badge as I’m on the ground*
Cop 2: “Roll on your side, Mr. journalist.”
Cop 3: *loads me in the car, sees my press badge and shrugs*
— Simon Moya-Smith (@SimonMoyaSmith) May 31, 2020
“It is common in autocratic countries for journalists to be swept up in arrests during protests and riots, but rare in the United States, where news gathering is protected by the First Amendment.”
The American supremacist worldview which would prompt someone to write something so idiotic is the same American supremacist worldview a reporter needs to espouse in order to get hired and promoted in a high-profile outlet like The New York Times. It is also the same American supremacist worldview which sees New York Times reporters cheerleading imperialist war after imperialist war, “humanitarian” intervention after “humanitarian” intervention, sanctions regime after sanctions regime, propaganda campaign after propaganda campaign.
The people who are on the ground documenting the important events which are unfolding across America are doing real news reporting, and they are providing an important service to society. The people who write American supremacist spin jobs for The New York Times are not doing real news reporting, and are actually detrimental to society.
But guess who’ll be getting more money and awards?
That’s what’s keeping the people asleep, right there.
Hopefully they are finding a way to wake up.