Amnesty International demanded the Iowa prosecutors drop charges against Des Moines Register journalist Andrea Sahouri.
The journalist “was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 simply for doing her job as a reporter,” said Amnesty International in a statement released March 4.
The Americas Director for Amnesty International, Erika Guevara-Rosas, lamented the troubling accusations, “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.”
The trial is currently scheduled on March 8, 2021 on charges of “failure to disperse” and “interference with official acts.” The potential results of the trial could lead to a fine, 30 days in jail, or both.
Amnesty International documented Andrea Sahouri’s experience in The World is Wathcing: Mass Violations of US Police of Black Lives Matter Protestors’ Rightsin August 2020. On May 31, 2020 the reporter was pepper sprayed and detained by police. Sahouri says she kept yelling, “I’m press, I’m press, I’m press,” while law enforcement sprayed her arms and face. According to the report, the police “cuffed her [Sahouri] in zip ties behind her back, and placed her in a van. Her face was covered in pepper spray, coating the face mask she was wearing; she said her entire face and eyes were burning and she was crying out in pain. While detained at the jail, she had to shower and change clothes due to the pepper spray. She was charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts and released around 11:30pm that same night.”
Andrea Sahouri’s experience is not unique; as, Amnesty International identifies a pattern of violence against journalists in the United States. Guevara-Rosas makes clear that there is no room for violence against those trying to report the news, “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.”