It is always fun to see journalists get arrested for no particular reason unless, of course, you happen to be a reasonable person who likes enjoying liberty in America. If that is the case, you should probably be a little upset whenever this happens.
Sadly, we are not talking about an incident in a foreign country. Journalists said they were arrested for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement right here in America. We are not condemning the New York Police Department – we understand that officers have a very difficult job and that there are two sides to every story – but simply to emphasize the important of free journalism in America.
Freedom of the press is one of the most fundamental rights in America. It is, beyond question, one of the most important aspects of a free society. Whether or not you agree with the Occupy Wall Street movements – and some of us on the editorial board do not – there can be no reasonable argument to be made against journalists having the right to cover it.
The Huffington Post reported media organizations “said New York police blocked journalists from seeing when authorities cleared out the Occupy camp in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park last week and said police officers used force and arrested some journalists as they were trying to do their jobs.”
We have a suspicion that the New York Police Department may feel differently about these events, but the fundamental principle here, that journalists should be allowed to cover events freely and openly, is essential to any free society.
Governments must not arrest journalists without just reasoning, and it seems that such reasoning may not have been present here.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for his part, has claimed that the police have been blocking off journalists from getting into certain areas for their own safety. While there may be some validity to this claim, Bloomberg must be absolutely sure that the police are doing only what they absolutely must to ensure the safety of all of the citizens of New York City. They may not cross over into the dangerous territory of arbitrarily preventing journalists from reasonable access to information.
This is a delicate balance, but it is a balance that must be achieved. If journalists are being prevented from accessing certain areas and from covering certain aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement, then the city government needs to explain its reasoning clearly and publicly.
If they’re arresting journalists for no reason…well, let’s just hope that they’re not. That’s not an America we want to face. Of course, burying our heads in the sand will not do any good, so we would like to call on journalists in New York City to investigate this story more thoroughly.
Once they do and the remaining questions are answered, we will know just how much the New York Police Department jeopardized the free press.