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Rights group concerned over Occupy media arrests

November 17, 2011

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NEW YORK—A human rights office for the Americas on Thursday criticized the arrest and assault of journalists during Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and other U.S. cities in recent weeks.

The Washington-based Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for authorities to guarantee and protect the practice of journalism at public demonstrations.

The office alleged in a statement that at least three journalists have been assaulted since October by police officers, and two others by participants, in demonstrations in Nashville, Tennessee, and Oakland, California.

"In addition, at least a dozen journalists have reportedly been placed under temporary arrest while performing their professional duties," the statement said.

The organization pointed to this week's detentions of seven journalists as they covered the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. They are Julie Walker, a freelancer who does work for National Public Radio and The Associated Press; Patrick Hedlund and Paul Lomax of DNAinfo.com; Doug Higginbotham, freelance cameraman for TV New Zealand; Jared Malsin of The Local; Karen Matthews and Seth Wenig of The Associated Press, and Matthew Lysiak of the New York Daily News.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom, also complained about the treatment and detention of the journalists in New York.

"Journalists must be allowed to cover news events without fear of arrest and harassment," said Carlos Lauria, CPJ's senior coordinator for the Americas.

The Americas group criticized the restrictions placed on media access when police moved in. Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters the media were kept from the site for their protection.

"The disproportionate restrictions on access to the scene of the events, the arrests, and the criminal charges resulting from the performance of professional duties by reporters violate the right to freedom of expression," the organization said.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was created by the Organization of American States, which includes countries from North and South America.

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