The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week, whilst being apprehended by police officers for alleged offences, has triggered international attention on police behaviour in the USA, and has sparked riots, arson and looting in Minneapolis.
The world is watching international media and trying to understand what is happening, so that they can be informed about the facts and the reasons that have led to these tragic events.
As an international press organisation, standing up for the rights of journalists, and the behaviour and conduct of the media to report faithfully without fear or favour the situation on the ground so that the public can be informed by objective and professional reporters, the Press Club Brussels was astonished to watch the CNN News team being arrested in Minneapolis on live TV.
The TV reporter and his team were heard on the broadcast to be deferential, polite and cooperative with the needs of the security officers.
CNN called the arrests a “clear violation of their First Amendment rights” in a tweet. The First Amendment to the US constitution protects freedom of speech and of association.
The Minneapolis State Patrol confirmed the arrests and said those detained were released “once they were confirmed to be members of the media”.
As an organisation representing journalists, the Brussels Press Club is used to defending the rights of reporters against oppressive governments that routinely harass them and deny their rights to report the news.
We are frankly shocked to discover that such a thing can also be tolerated in the United States of America, which we and the rest of the free world have always looked up to as the global champion of free speech.
The CNN team were later released without charge.
Minnesota governor Tim Walz has apologised, describing the incident as “unacceptable”.
He added that there was “absolutely no reason something like this should happen”.
I and all members of the Brussels Press Club agree.
Colin Stevens, President, PressClub Brussels