A documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter were each charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DCs law against rioting, after being caught up in the police action against demonstrators.
The Guardian learned of their arrests after reporting on Monday that the journalists Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America had also been arrested and charged with felonies while covering the same unrest on Friday morning.
All six were arraigned in superior court on Saturday and released to await further hearings in February and March, according to court filings. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said late on Tuesday that charges against journalists who were covering the protests should be dropped.
These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests, said Carlos Laura, the CPJs senior Americas program coordinator. We call on authorities in Washington to drop these charges immediately.
Jack Keller, a producer for the web documentary series Story of America, said he was charged and detained for about 36 hours after being kettled by police at 12th and L streets on Friday morning and arrested despite telling officers that he was covering the demonstrations as a journalist.
The way we were treated was an absolute travesty, said Keller, whose cellphone has been kept by the authorities. Kellers editor, Annabel Park, said: It is a maddening and frustrating situation. These are people who were there observing and documenting.
Matt Hopard, an independent journalist who was live-streaming the Friday protests, was arrested at the same site as Keller, Engel and Rubinstein, according to metropolitan police records. He said in a message that he denied the charge against him.