PEN America: Arrest of Oregon Journalist Clear Retaliation, First Amendment Violation
April Ehrlich was charged after reporting on police actions to evict some 100 people from a public park
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — PEN America today said the September 22 arrest of a journalist in Oregon was an infringement on the reporter’s First Amendment rights and a restriction on press freedom. That day, police arrested journalist April Ehrlich during her reporting on a police eviction of almost 100 people from a park near downtown Medford. The arrest was clear retaliation for her journalistic work covering police action.
“April Ehrlich was arrested solely for doing her job as a reporter. This is outrageous,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. free expression programs at PEN America. “Ehrlich was charged with interfering with a police officer, but it was the police officers who were grossly interfering with Ehrlich’s First Amendment rights. This is far from an isolated incident, as dozens of journalists covering police actions have been arrested this year and hundreds have been attacked, harassed, or otherwise restricted from their news gathering work in just the last five months. These tactics have no place in a country that values and respects a free press. We urge the Medford Police Department to drop these criminal charges immediately.”
A Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) journalist who has written about homelessness, Ehrlich entered the park last Tuesday morning to interview unhoused people living in camps and report on police actions to evict them. Medford police told Ehrlich and other present news media to stand in a designated area where, according to JPR, “it was not possible to adequately see or hear interactions between police officers and campers, or gather audio.”
Ehrlich was arrested for three charges: criminal trespassing, interfering with a police officer, and resisting arrest. Police officers booked her into Jackson County Jail, then released later that afternoon. Commenting on the arrest, Ehrlich’s lawyer said Ehrlich “was fully within her rights of the First Amendment to perform her duties as a journalist at the scene.”