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In a world where press freedom is constantly being questioned and threatened, it is not uncommon for journalists to face policing that goes far beyond what is reasonable or proportionate. Two Australian journalists were victims of police brutality while covering the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington D.C. in May 2020. The U.S. has recently found that the police used excessive force in this case. This article will explore the events leading up to the incident, the reactions of the global community, and the potential implications of such heavy-handed policing.
In May 2020, protests erupted in the United States in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody. Journalists from around the world flocked to the scene to report on the events unfolding, some of whom were victims of police violence. Among them were Amelia Brace and Tim Myers, both journalists with the Seven Network in Australia. On June 2, they were broadcasting live to Australia when riot police charged directly towards them, hitting them with truncheons and shooting them with rubber bullets without provocation.
The incident was captured on live television, sending shockwaves across the world. Amnesty International condemned the use of excessive force on journalists, saying, “it is hard not to feel anger at the brazen nature of this targeted assault”. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the incident, saying that it was “unacceptable and goes against the fundamental principles of press freedom”.
The U.S. government has now recognized that excessive force was used on Brace and Myers. The investigation by the U.S. Park Police has found that the action taken against these journalists violated the department’s policies. This admission comes after months of scrutiny and international condemnation. The U.S. government’s findings acknowledge the legitimacy of the grievances of journalists facing police violence, and it may help pave the way for future accountability.
The censorship and violence against journalists is not a new problem in the United States. In recent years, the CPJ reports there has been a marked increase in the number of journalists facing harassment, assault, and imprisonment in the US. The U.S is also not alone in this problem. Journalists in Belarus, Myanmar, and other countries face similar dangers. These incidences threaten presses freedom, which is a fundamental right and cornerstone of any democratic society. The harsh treatment of reporters casts a damaging impact on international politics, civil society, and international peace.
What this incident shows is the alarming trend of selectively policing journalists. They are the eyes and ears on the ground, providing critical information to the community and the wider world, often at great personal risk. The silencing of the press means that the truth is not spoken, and that wrongdoings can go unnoticed. It means that people in positions of power can act with impunity, knowing that they will not be held accountable. It undermines public trust and undermines democracy.
What’s concerning about the police violence in the Brace and Myers case is that they were targeted despite being clearly identified as being reporters. It was clear to see they were not behaving provocatively, yet police charged them regardless. The police have clearly overstepped their bounds in this situation. The police have a duty to keep the public safe, but what has happened here is that they have caused the public to feel unsafe. This is wrong, and it needs to stop.
The incident with Brace and Myers has sparked lengthy debates surrounding press freedom and police reform in the United States. The need for regulation and accountability of the police is crucial – a force that is out of control can not only harm innocent people but also undermine the legitimacy of the democratic state. No reporter should be attacked for doing their job.
In conclusion, the U.S. government’s recent findings recognizing that Brace and Myers were the victims of excessive force provides a glimmer of hope in the fight for press freedom. We need to be vigilant in scrutinizing abuses of power and holding people accountable when abuses occur, and we must remain mindful of the dangers facing journalists across the globe. The senseless violence must stop. Only when journalists are free to report on what they see can democracy and human rights be protected.