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North Dakota needs to immediately drop its outrageous charges against journalist Amy Goodman
In the words of the prosecutor, “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions," she now faces criminal charges. Read that sentence again. The state is literally charging her for nothing else beyond exercising her rights as a journalist.
Award-winning journalist and the host of Democracy Now, Amy Goodman, has been facing an outrageous arrest warrant in North Dakota for “criminal trespass” since early September—the result of her merely doing her job as a reporter and covering police violence against oil pipeline protesters in North Dakota.
Today, she announced she would return to the state in order to turn herself in and contest the charges on Monday.
"I will go back to North Dakota to fight this charge,” she said. “It is a clear violation of the First Amendment," said Goodman. "I was doing my job as a journalist, covering a violent attack on Native American protesters."
It couldn’t be more obvious that Ms. Goodman is being charged solely for her journalism and the impact it had on the oil pipeline debate. Here’s how Democracy Now described its news coverage that led to the charges against Ms. Goodman:
Rolling Stone’s Matt Tiabbi detailed what happened as a result of the segment Democracy Now aired:
Yet because, in the words of the prosecutor, “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions," she now faces criminal charges. Read that sentence again. The state is literally charging her for nothing else beyond exercising her rights as a journalist.
We fully support Ms. Goodman for taking this incredibly brave stance and being willing to return North Dakota to fight these charges directly, but make no mistake: North Dakota authorities should have dropped these obviously illegal charges as soon as they were issued.
How North Dakota did not immediately realize this was all a horrible mistake on their part is beyond reason. The only explanation seems to be that they want to silence First Amendment-protected speech and intimidate other journalists into not covering the protests. Since the charges were issued a month ago, their actions have been universally condemned by press freedom advocates, and there is simply no justification for letting it stand.
Not only are they flagrantly violating the Constitution, they are giving every two bit dictator and corrupt police establishment around the world every excuse to point to this episode and arrest journalists abroad, while making a mockery of our own press freedom protections at home.
Goodman is not a stranger to unconstitutional actions by local police. She was arrested in Minnesota in 2008 for covering the protests around the Republican National Convention. She later sued and won $100,000 from the state for infringing her First Amendment rights.
We hope and expect similar accountability for the authorities here when the dust clears. But in the meantime, North Dakota should stop embarrassing itself and drop all charges against Amy Goodman, and any other journalist who may be suffering the same fate, immediately.
October 13, 2016 – Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman, charged with criminal trespassing for filming an attack on Native American-led pipeline protesters, will turn herself in to North Dakota authorities on October 17.
Amy Goodman will surrender to authorities at the Morton County–Mandan Combined Law Enforcement and Corrections Center at 8:15 a.m. local time (CDT).
Journalist Amy Goodman to Turn Herself in to North Dakota Authorities
"I will go back to North Dakota to fight this charge. It is a clear violation of the First Amendment," said Goodman. "I was doing my job as a journalist, covering a violent attack on Native American protesters."
The charge in State of North Dakota v. Amy Goodman stems from Democracy Now!’s coverage of the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. On Saturday, September 3, Democracy Now! filmed security guards working for the pipeline company attacking protesters. The report showed guards unleashing dogs and using pepper spray and featured people with bite injuries and a dog with blood on its mouth and nose.
Democracy Now!’s report went viral online, was viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook and was rebroadcast on many outlets, including CBS, NBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and the Huffington Post.
On September 8, a criminal complaint and warrant was issued for Goodman’s arrest.
Ironically, in the state’s criminal complaint, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Lindsey Wohl, referencing the Democracy Now! video report in a sworn affidavit, stated, "Amy Goodman can be seen on the video identifying herself and interviewing protesters about their involvement in the protest." This is precisely the point: Goodman was doing the constitutionally protected work of a reporter.
The pipeline project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of over 200 other tribes from across the U.S., Canada and Latin America.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that the warrant is "a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest." Steve Andrist, executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, told The Bismarck Tribune, "It’s regrettable that authorities chose to charge a reporter who was just doing her job."
Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning public television/radio news program that airs on over 1,400 stations worldwide. Goodman has co-authored six New York Times bestsellers and won many of journalism’s highest awards in her more than three decades working as a reporter.
Democracy Now!’s coverage of the pipeline and the protests is available here:
Time: 8:00 a.m. CDT, Monday October 17, 2016
Place: 211 2nd Ave NW, Mandan ND 58554
Followed by short walk to jail:
Time: 8:15 a.m. CDT Monday October 17, 2016
Place: 205 1st Ave NW, Mandan, ND 58554
For more information, contact Denis Moynihan at +1-646-217-7231 (on-site cell) or media [at] democracynow.org.
Live camera position/uplink available.
To book contact Denis Moynihan.
Press availability will follow Amy Goodman’s arraignment, expected (but not guaranteed) to be several hours after 8:15 a.m. Goodman will be available for TV interviews via live TV camera position.
Live camera positions with satellite uplink connection available onsite to interview Amy Goodman or for use by your correspondent.
Broadcast/print quality video and still photos of Amy Goodman entering Morton County Jail will be available at democracynow.org or by emailing request to media [at] democracynow.org.
Dakota Access Pipeline Company Attacks Native American Protesters with Dogs & Pepper Spray