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Concerns over arrest of Indy US Chief

Posted on: July 10, 2020 by Ian Murray

The Society of Editors has reiterated its call for the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to raise concerns over the treatment of journalists by US police.

The call comes amid concerns over the arrest of the Chief US correspondent for the Independent while covering protests in Seattle.

Andrew Buncombe has detailed how he was arrested, shackled and assaulted in jail when he was subsequently charged with failure to disperse while reporting on the Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park on July 1.

Following his arrest Buncombe was held in an overcrowded jail which he described as ‘hotspots for coronavirus’ where efforts to counter the disease, he says, were minimal. 

The paper broke the news in today’s hard-hitting front page of its digital edition which stated ‘Journalism is not a crime’.

Buncombe added that in his 30 years as a journalist, this was the third time he had been detained. The first was in Cuba, the second in Pakistan, outside Bin Laden’s compound. He is awaiting news of any court appearance.

Christian Broughton, editor of the Independent, told the SoE: “As a global news organisation, we have some journalists based permanently in countries with poor records for press freedom, and we frequently send reporters into conflict zones and dangerous situations. But when the phone rings to tell you a reporter has been arrested, you don’t imagine that the correspondent in question would be in the United States. Andy is an experienced and highly respected reporter. As he writes in his article, the job of a journalist is not to disperse. Our job is to be present.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said, “The UK government has placed press freedom and the safety of journalists high on its agenda. We welcome that, but the message of media freedom should not be targeted just to those governments that are the obvious candidates when it comes to a poor record on press rights. We should have the courage to tell our closest friends and allies when we believe they are out of line.”

Last month the Society of Editors called on the Prime Minister to raise the issue of journalists’ arrests with President Trump. 

The incident follows the arrest of Adam Gray, a New York-based photojournalist for SWNS news agency who was thrown to the ground by police, restrained and handcuffed as he chronicled protests in the city. 

Following condemnation of the police department’s actions by the British Government, world media commentators and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Manhattan District Attorney dropped all indictments against Gray.

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