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Reporters facing charges for Ferguson arrests part of 'deliberate, unjustifiable' interference with press, media expert says

Fri, 07/17/2015

LAWRENCE — Two journalists who were arrested while covering the August 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, could still face charges. St. Louis County prosecutors will soon decide whether to charge Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post.

They were arrested in a McDonald’s restaurant being used by journalists as a makeshift newsroom during the protests that erupted after a police officer fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown. A SWAT team entered the restaurant and eventually ordered it closed. Officers said they arrested Reilly and Lowery for not leaving quickly enough.

Jonathan Peters, assistant professor of journalism and faculty affiliate at the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas, is available to speak with media about this subject.

A First Amendment expert, Peters can discuss the reporters’ arrests, the possible charges and the rights of reporters to cover protests and other breaking-news events.

“The possible charges are ironic because trespassing is the McDonald’s of newsgathering arrests: generic and too often disappointing,” Peters said. “Their arrests seem to have been deliberate and unjustifiable attempts to interfere with the press.”

Peters is an attorney and the press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review. He has blogged about free speech for the Harvard Law & Policy Review and has written on legal issues for Esquire, The Atlantic, Slate, The Nation, Wired and PBS. He is the First Amendment chair of the American Bar Association’s Civil Rights Litigation Committee and the teaching chair of the Law and Policy Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or mkrings@ku.edu.



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