Support for arrested journalists

The US ranks number 47 on the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, down from number 20 in 2010

Josh Stearns of Free Press has been tracking arrests of journalists covering Occupy protests since September. He tracks using news outlets, social media, and tips, and always reaches out to confirm the details with each journalist. He did this for me when I was arrested Jan. 28 covering Occupy Oakland.

According to Stearns, 70 journalists have been arrested while covering Occupy protests in 12 cities around the country.

In an annual survey of worldwide freedom of the press released Jan. 23 by Reporters without Borders, the United States ranks 47th, a fall from last year's 20th place ranking. According to the group, the US "owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests."

These arrests can be much more difficult for freelance and independent journalists who lack institutional backing.

Such is the case, for example, with Bradley Stuart Allen, a freelance photographer who was arrested while documenting a building occupation by what a police report called “a group acting in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz.” Allen is charged with felony conspiracy and two counts of misdemeanor trespass; his case will go to trial May 20.

Journalism, of course, is in a state of transition, and as traditional media outlets are losing ground, independent and citizen journalists have stepped up to provide in-depth and accurate coverage. Groups like the Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Free Press, in turn, have provided that crucial institutional support.

The Free Press has organized thousands to call city governments demanding detained journalists’ release. Stearns maintains a storify page with updates on what has become known on twitter as “#journarrests.” (And if see any happening, remember to tweet him at @jcstearns!)

They also made a call for notices of gratitude to arrested journalists, and got sixteen thousand responses.  

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