A journalist will face trial in Iowa today on charges arising from her arrest while covering a Black Lives Matter protest last year, in a case condemned by Amnesty International and news organizations across the US as an assault on press freedom.
Andrea Sahouri, a public safety reporter for the Des Moines Register, is charged with “failure to disperse and interference with official acts, misdemeanors”. If convicted, she could face a fine and 30 days in jail. She has pleaded not guilty.
Sahouri was arrested at the protest in Des Moines on 31 May, six days after the killing of George Floyd by officers in Minneapolis, which touched off months of international protests against police brutality and for racial justice.
She says she identified herself as a member of the press several times. But police pepper-sprayed and zip-tied her and her then boyfriend. Both were taken to Polk county jail.
A Des Moines police officer, Luke Wilson, has said he believed Sahouri was a protester because she was not wearing press credentials. Because Wilson did not turn on his body camera as he was supposed to, there is no video footage of the incident. Sahouri did film herself recounting what happened, while detained in a police car.
The judge in the case, Lawrence McLellan, has declined to drop the charges but has ordered police to give body camera training materials to Sahouri’s defense team.
Sahouri was one of many journalists targeted by police amid the wave of protests that followed the killing of Floyd. The trial of the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, is scheduled to begin on Monday.
The CNN journalist Omar Jimenez, and his crew were arrested live on camera while covering a protest in Minneapolis. The NBC journalist Ali Velshi was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet, also live on camera. Donald Trump called what happened to Velshi “the most beautiful thing”.
Read more of Erum Salam’s report here: Case of reporter facing trial over BLM coverage seen as attack on press rights