Iowa reporter exonerated in criminal case from coverage of protest

An Iowa reporter was acquitted of two criminal charges stemming after her arrest in 2020 covering protests over George Floyd’s murder. Police say they warned Andrea Sahouri to leave the protest area then pepper sprayed her before detaining her. Civil rights groups were appalled that the case even went to trial. “The facts of [Sahouri’s] arrest are appalling, but the fact that the state has pressed on in prosecuting her after these facts became apparent has been an embarrassment for Polk County and the State of Iowa, attracting national and international condemnation,” said Rita Bettis Austen of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. (Des Moines Register, March 10, 2021, by William Morris)

Sahouri, who identified herself as a reporter before her arrest, said it was vital to protect reporters doing their jobs, “Reporters need to be at protests as the public’s eyes and ears, to conduct interviews, take photos and witness for themselves the actions of protesters and law enforcement.” (The New York Times, March 10, 2021, by Katie Robertson and Rachel Abrams)

Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA TODAY, March 5, 2021, commented on Sahouri’s case and noted it was only one of a number of instances. “Over the summer,” wrote Carroll, “six USA TODAY Network journalists were taken into police custody while doing their jobs, reporting from various racial justice protests. Three were jailed. They yelled, ‘I’m press, I’m press,’ as they were tackled. Forced to the groundPepper sprayed. Handcuffed.”

For related FAC coverage, click here and here

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