Police action against Occupy protestors renews conflict over journalists’ access

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Julie Walker, a freelance reporter for NPR, was among the journalists arrested yesterday when the New York City Police Department evicted Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park. Walker told Associated Press she was arrested for disorderly conduct after she requested the name and badge number of a police officer who had grabbed her arm twice. “I told them I’m a reporter,” she told AP. “I had my recorder on before he ripped it out of my hand.”

At least seven journalists were arrested in New York during the police action, and several reported being rough-handled, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Society of Professional Journalists called on New York officials to drop all charges against reporters who were arrested while covering the Nov. 15 protests, and for police to take greater care to avoid arresting reporters who are “simply and clearly” doing their jobs.

“We know that as protests escalate it may be difficult for police to distinguish bystanders from participants, but it is clear now that many journalists have been erroneously arrested without cause,” said SPJ President John Ensslin. “These errors must be rectified immediately.”

In September, a Web editor with WNET’s new MetroFocus local news and culture site was arrested in while reporting on citizen journalism at the Wall Street protests. He spent nine hours in custody.

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