Friday, July 24, 2020

Targeting Journalists

     Whatever is going on in Portland, Oregon, it's ugly.  Trying to set an occupied building on fire is evil, no matter who the fire-setters and their prospective victims might be.  Trying to ambush someone with a hammer is not a legitimate act of protest.  Waving signs and chanting slogans?  A-okay.  Blocking traffic?  Not so much.

     --Precisely where on the scale of despicable actions one might rank turning pepper spray and less-lethal weapons on clearly-identified journalists who are not in the body of a crowd of protesters, rioters or plain old malefactors is an open question, but it's not admirable.  Especially not when it is done by law enforcement personnel.

     That's not just my opinion; the U. S. District Court for the area thinks the behavior is credible enough and disturbing enough to rate a temporary restraining order, telling the various law enforcement agencies operating in Portland that they cannot target journalists covering the protests and unrest.  (Here's one news story summarizing it.)

     There are reasonable exceptions -- if J. Random Newshound has gotten him- or herself into the midst of a violent mob that gets tear-gassed (etc.), that's just part of the risks of the job.  But deliberate targeting of a journalist is now officially forbidden.

     What have we come to, that it is necessary to remind the people charged with enforcing the laws and maintaining order that the First Amendment is a fundamental part of the body of this country's laws?

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