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Sixteen Thousand People Send Messages to Journalists Arrested During Occupy Protests

by via Josh Sterns, Free Press

How should we respond to the unprecedented rise in attacks on freedom of the press we are witnessing worldwide?

From foreign correspondents and citizen reporters being targeted and killed in Syria to new cases of press suppression and intimidation here at home, recent months have provided a series of stark reminders about the risks journalists take to bring us the news we need.

However, we are also seeing the rise of a new era of journalism advocates — ordinary people in communities around the country who are standing up for our freedoms and taking action to protect the First Amendment. For too long we have taken the First Amendment for granted, but increasingly we are taking responsibility for it. In the last few months, more than 40,000 Free Press members sent letters and made phone calls to their mayors, demanding that charges be dropped for the nearly 70 journalists who have been arrested while trying to cover Occupy protests nationwide.

We then asked people to write directly to the arrested journalists themselves, to stand with them and the organizations fighting to protect the First Amendment. Sixteen thousand people responded. This week we are delivering those messages to all those who have been detained.

One of those responses, from Elenore in Idaho Falls, captures the passion and commitment of these messages to journalists: “Your courage in reporting regardless of the consequences is amazing. Thank you for doing your job. Now it's our turn to try to help you obtain your freedom.”

Listen to Elenore’s message and a few others, as recorded by staff at Free Press:

Listen now:
Copy the code below to embed this audio into a web page:
And here are other messages from concerned people all over the U.S.:

Along with the soldiers in combat who are trying to keep other countries free, you are fighting to keep the U.S. free. Thank you for enduring.

—Jeanette, Bradenton, Fla.

You folks are the canaries in the coal mine, encouraging the rest of us to try to make enough noise to get the attention of the government. If we let you go down quietly, eventually we all go down.

—Michael, Providence, R.I.

Throughout American history, there are countless examples of journalists who had the courage to report movements in America. Civil rights, women's suffrage, workers’ rights are all things we take for granted now, thanks to the heroism of journalists who risked it all to give Americans their right to have a voice and change our society for the better. Thank you for listening to us and thank you for your courage in defending our rights.

—Catherine, Portland, Ore.

I am a journalist who has worked in war zones in dictatorships where journalists have been mistreated. The USA sends up an outcry when this happens elsewhere. It is an abomination that it is happening here.

—Maura, Spencer, N.Y.

Society underestimates the degree of bravery required to be a journalist. In the modern world, the notion of killing the messenger ought to just be a quaint metaphor, not a valid and accepted tactic. Freedom of speech is protected not even just for them to have leave to speak, but because the rest of us need to hear.

—Kent, Keene, N.H.

As a journalist detained at gunpoint in a police raid in Chapel Hill, N.C., I stand with all who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights in the United States.

—Josh, Carboro, N.C.

I am a first-generation Holocaust survivor. I hold freedom of the press as the dearest of all the freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution. I have been watching with great sadness along many Americans as you have been arrested. I stand with you in solidarity in preserving, honoring and protecting your rights to do your most important job of reporting. May God bless you and keep you.

—Jadwiga, Redding, Calif.

These messages are a powerful reminder that supporting the First Amendment is critical to our democracy — and that the public is ready and willing to defend freedom of the press. Now we need our policies and institutions to catch up to what the First Amendment means in the digital age. We don't need to rewrite or reimagine the First Amendment; we simply need to reinvigorate it, all of us, together.

Click here to read comments from people all over the U.S. who are working to protect the First Amendment in their communities.


If protecting the First Amendment is important to you, please consider a donation to the Free Press Action Fund. Thank you.

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Free Press does not support or oppose any candidate for public office. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media and universal access to communications.
§Stand with Journalists
by via Josh Sterns, Free Press
444 Page PDF

Since September nearly 70 reporters and citizen journalists have been arrested across the U.S. while covering the Occupy Wall Street movement. These arrests have become so commonplace that the United States’ press freedom ranking has plummeted 27 spots to number 47 worldwide.

Below are the signatures and comments of more than 16,000 Free Press members who are committed to standing with the arrested journalists, and supporting journalism organizations that are fighting for our freedoms.

These statements are a powerful reminder that the First Amendment is a critical democratic issue and that the public is ready and willing to fight to defend it.

To the arrested journalists and organizations fighting to protect the First Amendment:

When journalists are arrested, everyone’s freedom is at risk. I stand in defense of our First Amendment rights with the more than 70 journalists who have been detained in the United States.

Thank you for your work.
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