Without being at the scene of the arrests it is difficult to say if anyone did anything illegal last night when two reporters were detained at a McDonald’s in Ferguson, Missouri. The reporters were covering the protests and riots that broke out after an 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown was fatally shot by police there.
The tension here lies with allowing the police to do what they need to do to protect public safety and conduct a complete investigation and balancing that with journalists’ right to report.
The police can regulate the time, place and manner of speech to a certain degree as long as it is not a content-based regulation. Meaning, they can clear an area of everyone if they think they need to do that to keep the peace, but they can’t single out a journalist and tell him he cannot be there.
The First Amendment provides safeguards that allow people to gather and disseminate information about government officials. Read more