Iowa reporter is acquitted

USA Today reports:

Andrea Sahouri, the Iowa journalist who was arrested as she reported on racial justice protests last summer, was found not guilty in a case that drew widespread condemnation from journalism and free press organizations.

Her former boyfriend, who was arrested with her, has been acquitted as well.

Earlier:

Reporter arrested at protest says it’s important for journalists to bear witness

USA Today has an account of Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri’s testimony at her trial stemming from her arrest at a Black Lives Matter protest last summer. (The Register and USA Today are both Gannett papers.)

“It’s important for journalists to be on the scene and document what’s happening,” Sahouri said as part of her testimony. “Protests erupted not just across the country but all over the world. I felt like I was playing a role in that. I know we are a small city, but I felt like I was playing a role in that.”

Here, I think, is the key:

The judge has also not ruled on a motion filed by Sahouri’s attorney during the trial for a directed verdict to decide the case in Sahouri and Robnett’s favor. [Sahouri and her then-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, were both pepper-sprayed and arrested.]

This case should be thrown out as quickly as possible — not just to ensure that justice is done and the First Amendment is protected, but to send a message to the police and the prosecutors who are pursuing this dubious case.

Earlier:

Des Moines Register calls for charges against reporter to be dropped

In an editorial that’s getting a lot of national attention, the Des Moines Register is calling for a criminal case to be dropped against one of its reporters, Andrea Sahouri, who was charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts. Sahouri was arrested at a protest on May 31 last year. Her trial is scheduled for March 8. The Register puts it this way:

Sahouri, who has worked as a reporter for the Register since August 2019, was doing her constitutionally protected job at the protest, conducting interviews, taking photos and recording what was happening.

If convicted, she’ll have a criminal record and faces possible penalties of 30 days in jail and a fine of $625 for each offense.

The editorial also notes that the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented 126 arrests and detainments of journalists in 2020, most of them at Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

And though the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor may resulted in a massive increase in such detentions, there’s nothing new about it. In 2018, police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, detained a reporter during a Black Lives Matter protest in a transparent attempt to stop her from doing her job. Their actions were the subject of a 2019 GBH News Muzzle Award.