We must all protect press freedom, everywhere

| Marcus Clem guest writer |

A masked fighter for the “Islamic State” beheaded photojournalist James Foley in the desert of Iraq and Syria on Aug. 19. On Tuesday, Sept. 2, we learned how the same man proudly murdered another U.S. reporter, Steven Sotloff, in the same way.
It seems incredible, horrifying and unforgivable, and it is. But it’s not entirely unfamiliar, nor is this kind of problem restricted to the Middle East.
“I don’t know why you’re videotaping,” said Ralph Hudgens, insurance commissioner of North Carolina, at an Aug. 23 political rally to the journalist recording his speech.
That journalist, Nydia Tisdale, ended up beaten, cuffed and charged with a felony after organizers ordered her to stop filming the public event and she refused. Incidentally, Tisdale had learned that very morning of her successful lawsuit against a city council that demanded she stop taping its meeting.
“I was so upset at how they handled it – I walked out,” the Republican Party county chairman later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the rally. The charges against Tisdale are still active, though the arresting officer was recently cleared of wrongdoing.
During recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., several journalists were arrested, assaulted, and saw the freedom to perform their duties curtailed both by police and by participants in the protests and rioting that occurred there.
People who apparently didn’t approve of his videotaping their intent to loot a store seized David Carson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; he ended up having his head repeatedly smashed against the street and his belongings stolen.
On Aug. 13, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post were dragged out of a McDonald’s in Ferguson after police kicked everyone out of the restaurant – a staging area for the media – and the two didn’t move fast enough.
Reilly was shoved against a wall, and a police officer smacked his head against a window, before offering a sarcastic “sorry.” The two were later released with the apologies of the Ferguson police chief.
We’re fortunate in that when events like these happen in this country, they’re rare enough to cause the kind of public interest and, one would hope, outrage that gets them circulated far and wide.
We can make sure that happens when such abuse is on American soil, be it the responsibility of a criminal or a government actor.
We’re less equipped to address the heartbreaking fate of Foley and Sotloff. Sympathy has to do. I can only hope that they’ll be in your thoughts and that this writing will have helped you understand what their sacrifice means.

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