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The Fate of Amy Goodman and The RNC Arrests

A little over two weeks ago at the Republican National Convention, dozens of journalists were arrested for doing their jobs. Among these journalists was Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! — an independent national news program. On Labor Day she, along with her two of her colleagues, was arrested outside of the RNC and still could be potentially charged for a felony riot (UPDATE: charges have been dropped against Amy Goodman).

Goodman was arrested while trying to aid her colleagues who had been violently arrested for not rioting, or even inciting riot, but doing their jobs as reporters. They were recording the protests outside of the Xcel Center, as they had every right to do as accredited journalists. In response, Goodman approached a police officer to explain that they had arrested journalists, not violent rioters — subsequently a secret service agent marched up to her and yanked her convention credentials off her neck.

These events were nowhere near isolated. Earlier during the convention a group of journalists from I-Witness were put on house arrest on the grounds that they were planning an attack. The only thing they were planning to do was report the events at the RNC. Local reporters, AP reporters, national reporters were all arrested. These were not “radical” protesters threatening riot, these were reporters exercising their duty and rights as journalists. Of course, police brutality did not end at journalists; hundreds of protesters were arrested. Journalists were being arrested for reporting this very police brutality.

Granted, I don’t have cable or a television, but I really expected to hear more talk about these arrests. This is something that should be discussed in classes so that an open dialogue about U.S. democracy can really take shape. Even as a media studies student, there has been zero discussion about the arrests at the RNC. What I want to know is: why aren’t more people outraged? This assault on journalism and democracy is relevant to not only journalism students or political science majors, but to all of us, as citizens and voters. I’m surprised that in this political climate, approaching an election, there has been such little discussion on the matter.

I would think that the fact journalists are being arrested for reporting is an indicator that our democracy is clearly flawed. A fully functioning democracy is dependent on public discourse. Ideally, journalists are responsible for ensuring that policy-making and elections are truly democratic. Unfortunately, the mainstream and ever-consolidating corporate media profit has taken precedence. “Unbiased,” “neutral” and “balanced” news dominates the media in order to reach the largest demographic possible. As a result, there’s little room for contextual and analytical reporting.

This does not mean that the public has been complacent with the innocuous nature of corporate media. In response to the democratic failures of the mainstream media, smaller, independent media organizations have taken rise. Free Press is a media reform organization founded by the University of Illinois’ Robert McChesney. On the organization’s website you can access hundreds of media reform and independent media organizations. Also on it’s website is a list of journalists that have been arrested at the RNC.

While the media reform movement is clearly gaining momentum, I can’t help but be pessimistic about the future of this country. When journalists are no longer allowed to do their jobs, and are violently arrested for reporting, can you confidently call your government a democracy?

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