Criminal Charges ‘A Clear Attempt to Intimidate’ Journalists in North Dakota
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—The misdemeanor charges filed against journalist Amy Goodman for reporting on protests in North Dakota are a clear attack on freedom of the press, PEN America said in a statement today.
On September 3, Democracy Now!—the award-winning independent news program hosted by Goodman—released an on-the-ground video report from the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline showing private security guards setting attack dogs on anti-pipeline protestors. The video, filmed by Goodman, quickly went viral and was broadcast across a large number of national news outlets. Five days later, North Dakota State Attorney Ladd R. Erickson issued a warrant for Goodman’s arrest on the charge of trespassing on the site. Prosecutors later dropped this charge, replacing it on October 14 with the charge of participating in a riot.
“We are deeply troubled by the blatant disregard for First Amendment rights reflected in Amy Goodman’s arrest,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs at PEN America. “The American public has a right to know what is happening on the ground in North Dakota. Ms. Goodman was neither rioting nor trespassing by doing her job as a journalist. The lodging of charges against reporters including Goodman at the Dakota Access Pipeline reflects a clear attempt to intimidate the press.”
The riot charge brought against Goodman was rightfully dismissed by a judge on Monday, but state prosecutors have not ruled out the possibility of bringing additional charges against her. Charges against other media workers remain, including those levied against documentarian Deia Schlosberg, who faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted on the three felony charges against her.
In recent years, there have been numerous instances of journalists arrested for attempts to report on protests or other newsworthy events in the United States. In 2014, PEN America published Press Freedom under Fire in Ferguson, a report detailing infringements on journalists’ right to report the news during several weeks of demonstrations against police violence in Missouri. Continuing in 2015 and 2016, journalists have been attacked, or arrested and charged, while attempting to cover #blacklivesmatter protests in Louisiana, Baltimore, and Minneapolis.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.