TV reporters in Baton Rouge, La. and Rochester, N.Y. were handcuffed and detained – and, in one case, sent to jail – this weekend while covering protests over the recent police shootings of two African-American men.
Chris Slaughter, assistant news director at WAFB, the Raycom-owned CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge, was released from jail Sunday after being arrested Saturday night while covering a demonstration at the city's police headquarters against the shooting death of Alton Sterling. He was booked on one count of obstruction of a highway.
Slaughter said he was arrested when he put one foot onto a road to try to get a better angle while recording the protest. He was wearing a WAFB shirt and media credentials at the time of his arrest.
Meantime, WHAM, the ABC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., is continuing its investigation into police handcuffing and detaining two of its reporters, both African American, covering a Black Lives Matter protest in that city Friday night.
“While we understand and value the importance of the police in our communities, we are also very protective of our First Amendment Rights as free journalists,” the station said in a statement posted on its website. “No society can be fully secure if journalists cannot freely report on important events that affect the people of a community.”
According to WHAM, which is owned by Stephen Mumblow, the reporters were handcuffed and lead away by police “without warning” while covering live on Facebook the arrest of a protester. They were the only African Americans in a group of reporters, the station said.
Rochester’s mayor and police chief quickly apologized for the incident, according to the station.
Execs, however, remain “concerned.”
“We encourage further dialogue with law enforcement to better identify reporters in the field to avoid a situation like this,” the station said.