Thank you, S.C. journalists

Published June 3, 2020

Bill Rogers, Executive Director
By Bill Rogers, Executive Director
These are very tough but important times for South Carolina journalists.

Demonstrations continue over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
We have seen legal protests turn into violent confrontations with cars set afire, businesses damaged and looted, bricks and rocks thrown at police officers, and tear gas used to disperse crowds.

And journalists have been there. Writing, photographing and shooting video of what is happening. Theirs is an important role to let citizens safe in their homes know what is going on.

We are talking about actual danger, with long hours and stress.

We are also thankful to see that in almost all situations, our state’s law enforcement officers are letting journalists do their jobs.

That isn’t always the case.

Sadly, some journalists in other parts of the country have become victims of violence and unjustified police harassment and detention.

The Nieman Journalism Lab reports that U.S. police have attacked journalists at least 120 times since May 28. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker shows 211 press freedom violations including 33 arrests, 143 assaults (118 by police, 25 by others) and 35 instances of equipment or newsroom damage.

Law enforcement officers in the Twin Cities arrested a CNN reporting team live on the air last Friday.

On the same day, a TV reporter in Kentucky was hit by a pepper ball that appeared to be aimed at her while she covered the protest on live television.

We’ve witnessed horrific images of journalists who have been shot at with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.

One photojournalist lost an eye to a rubber bullet as she was clearly in the act of photographing police.

And on Monday, a CNN reporter said on air that a D.C. police officer struck a cameraman with a baton, even though he was holding his camera and press credentials.

Time and again, journalists identified themselves to law enforcement as “press” and flashed their news media credential badges, but to no avail.

Join us in standing by our peers in other states who are risking their lives to report on the protests. 

We can hope the worst is over in South Carolina.  But we know it has brought out the best in our state’s journalism. 

We are grateful for your commitment to gathering and sharing news and we thank you for all you do.

And remember, if you ever run into a First Amendment, legal or open government issue, SCPA’s Legal Hotline is here for you.  

Related: SCPA signs on to Reporters Committee’s letter to Minnesota officials

Related: Targeted attacks on journalists covering protests unconstitutional (Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press)

Related:  23 guidelines for journalists to safely cover protests (By Al Tompkins, Poynter)

Related: At least 125 press freedom violations reported over 3 days of U.S. protests
(Committee to Protect Journalists)

Related: NPPA urges accountability for police who violate journalists’ rights (By Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Wagner Calzada, National Press Photographers Association)

Related: In nearly every state, front pages capture outrage after George Floyd’s death (By Kristen Hare, Poynter)

Related: Police Target Journalists as Trump Blames ‘Lamestream Media’ for Protests (By 
By Marc Tracy and Rachel Abrams, New York Times)

Related: ‘The terror of wearing both a press badge and black skin’: Black journalists are carrying unique burdens (By Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, The Washington Post)