• Press Release

Iowa Prosecutors Must Drop Criminal Charges Against Journalist Andrea Sahouri

March 4, 2021

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Polk County attorney in Iowa, USA, should immediately drop the spurious criminal charges against 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, Amnesty International said today.

“The charges against Andrea Sahouri represent a clear violation of press freedom and fit a disturbing pattern of abuses against journalists by police in the USA. It’s deeply troubling that the prosecutor would push these bogus charges all the way to trial,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“In 2020, journalists across the USA provided the world with key reporting on the Black Lives Matter movement and outrageous human rights violations against protesters by the police. No journalist should be punished for doing their job and conveying such critical information. Treating media work as a crime is a human rights violation. US officials must uphold freedom of expression and immediately dismiss the charges against Andrea Sahouri.”

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.”

On March 8, 2021, US authorities will prosecute Andrea Sahouri on charges of “failure to disperse” and “interference with official acts.” The prosecutor has insisted on moving ahead with a trial for two simple misdemeanors, which could result in a fine, a 30-day jail sentence, or both.

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 is campaigning globally for the charges against Andrea Sahouri to be dropped.