The News Guild this afternoon condemned charges brought against two Washington-area journalists stemming from their brief detention while covering civil unrest in Missouri last year, joining the chorus of news organizations and journalists who have also voiced their concerns.
The charges, brought by St. Louis County against Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, came nearly a full year after the pair were arrested in a Ferguson, Missouri McDonalds amid protests against the police in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing.
Lowery and Reilly have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer and have been ordered to appear in a St. Louis County court. They could be arrested if they refuse.
In the statement, the News Guild President Bernie Lunzer called the charges “a gross abuse of power” and a “vile assault on the First Amendment.”
We are not politely calling on him to drop these charges; we are demanding it. If he refuses, he will be in for the fight of his life as faces the collective and growing wrath of the nation’s journalists and free press advocates.
Earlier this week, editors from both The Washington Post and The Huffington Post derided the charges.
“Charging a reporter with trespassing and interfering with a police officer when he was just doing his job is outrageous,” Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron told The Post Monday. “You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident.”
Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief for The Huffington Post, also castigated the charges in a statement Monday.
“At least we know St. Louis County knows how to file charges,” Grim wrote. “If Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly can be charged like this with the whole country watching, just imagine what happens when nobody is.”