Who’s a professional journalist? Who’s a citizen journalist? Who’s a marauding anarchist posing as a journalist? In this topsy-turvy era of handheld digital cameras and 24-7 Web logs, who really knows?
Today, the RNC’s subcommittee on law enforcement and public safety affairs sent out an advisory to journalists noting that while the police in St. Paul support the First Amendment, sometimes in the fog of protests it can be difficult to differentiate between unlawful, vandalizing anarchists and the inkstained wretches lawfully reporting on them.
Until such things get sorted out, the subcommittee helpfully suggests, it’s best for the reporters to disperse quickly–just like everyone else!– when told to by authorities.
“Because still cameras, video cameras and other recording equipment are commonplace at large events or gatherings, it can be difficult for law enforcement and others to differentiate between credentialed media, un-credentialed media or others who may carry similar equipment,” notes the subcommittee’s release. “While law enforcement in no way wishes to restrict First Amendment rights, members of the press must also follow police orders to protect their safety, the safety of police and others.”
“When police officials request the breakup of an unlawful assembly by announcement to the gathered crowd, that order applies to all individuals, including the media,” adds the release. “A quick and orderly dispersal is more likely to help people, including media personnel, stay safe and avoid arrest.”