Today, a jury in Polk City, Iowa found Des Moines Register journalist Andrea Sahouri, who was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 simply for doing her job as a reporter, not guilty on charges of “failure to disperse” and “interference with official acts.” The prosecutor insisted on moving ahead with a trial for two simple misdemeanors, which carried the potential to result in a fine, a 30-day jail sentence, or both.
In a statement, Denise Bell, researcher at Amnesty International USA, said:
“We are incredibly relieved and heartened to learn that Andrea Sahouri has been found not guilty of the bogus charges levied against her. Reporting at a protest as a working member of the media is not a crime, and treating it as one constitutes a human rights violation. This fits into a larger trend of police forces across the United States committing widespread and egregious human rights violations in response to largely peaceful assemblies protesting systemic racism and police violence, including the killing of Black people.
“Journalists must be able to report on scenes of protest without fear of retribution. The right of the media to do their work is essential to the right of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
“Clearly, the jury saw these charges for what they are — completely ridiculous. This case should never have gone to trial. In much the same way Sahouri’s unfounded arrest is a part of a larger pattern of police abuses, the decision of Polk County prosecutors to bring her to trial on these charges fits a larger pattern of practices undermining human rights within the United States justice system.”
“The jury did the right thing by upholding freedom of the press and a just democracy. I’m grateful for them, as well as the support I’ve received from every corner of the world,” said Andrea Sahouri.
Background and context:
On the night of May 31, 2020, police in the city of Des Moines, Iowa, pepper-sprayed, arrested, and detained Andrea Sahouri while she was reporting on a Black Lives Matter protest, even after she yelled “I’m press, I’m press.”
Amnesty documented Andrea’s case in its August 2020 report, The World is Watching: Mass Violations by US Police of Black Lives Matter Protesters’ Rights, detailing how law enforcement officials unnecessarily and unjustly targeted journalists, legal observers, and street medics, as well as protesters, with excessive use of force in numerous primarily peaceful protests in 2020. Such excessive use of force violated their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, causing injuries and endangering all those impacted.
Amnesty International has been campaigning globally for the charges against Andrea Sahouri to be dropped.