Six Journalists Could Face Up 10 Years In Prison For Reporting On Anti-Trump Demonstrations

A group of six journalists are facing felony charges, after covering anti-Trump protests on the inauguration day and could now face up to 10 years in prison and a £20,000 fine if convicted

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In the words of late journalist AA Gill:

'Without News Information, we'd be back in the Dark Ages. There is no democracy without a free press. It's an absolute pre-requisite for a free market. Freedom of speech is what all the other human rights and freedoms balance on.' - AA Gill Is Away

A reported six journalists have now been charged with felony rioting while covering anti-Trump demonstrations in Washington D.C last Friday.

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According to the Guardian, the journalists were among more than 200 people arrested around the time of President Trump's swearing-in ceremony.

If convicted, the journalists – Evan Engel, Alex Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matt Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantú – could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison or £20,000 fines.

A spokesperson for Engel's online publication, Vocativ, says the arrests and charges held against the group of reporters are 'an affront to the First Amendment and journalistic freedom'.

Although the majority of protests were peaceful, some property was vandalised and at least six police officers suffered minor injuries.

Those covering the demonstrations included a documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter who have all been charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DC's law against rioting, according to the newspaper.

On Saturday, the six journalists were called into superior court and released on bail to await further hearings, scheduled in February and March, according to court filings.

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Yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said fellony charges against the journalists should be dropped.

After all, they were just doing their jobs and there doesn't seem to be evidence that they themselves were rioting, which is what their conviction is predicated on.

Carlos Lauría, the CPJ's senior Americas program coordinator told the Guardian: 'These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests.'

Following their arrest, the journalists have spoken out against the barbaric treatment they faced from authorities while covering the demonstrations.

Jack Keller, a producer for the web documentary series Story of America, reveals he was charged and detained for about 36 hours on the day. 'The way we were treated was an absolute travesty,' he admitted.

'I had absolutely nothing to do with the vandalism,' he admitted.

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During his reportage, Rubinstein reported on the force used by police to control the protesters, tweeting several photos and videos during the protests. Following his arrest, he alleged the police had thrown a flash grenade that left him temporarily blind.

It's at times like these that we must not forget that freedom of the press is the mainstay of democracy.

Its role is to dig for the facts, to hold people to account, to express opinion, to play Devil's advocate, to ensure that a rich spread of different voices are heard over the general fray and over the 'alternative truths' of a government agenda.

We are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests

Press censorship, mistreatment and imprisonment smacks of totalitarian regimes, not of the land of the supposedly free and brave.

The news of the journalists' arrests come as the Trump administration has implemented a complete media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the LA Times.

Employees in EPA's public affairs office have now been told to forward all inquiries from journalists to the Office of Administration and Resources Management, so that they can be 'carefully screened', according to the publication.

Bizarrely, all websites and social media accounts relating to EPA have also shown no activity since Trump's inauguration.

News of the journalists' arrests and EPA's media blackout follows reports that Chicago-born Edward Majerczyk was sentenced to a mere nine months in prison for hacking the private accounts of 30 celebrities and stealing private information, including nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence.

According to the Guardian, the 29-year-old was also ordered £4,500 in compensation for counseling services for one celebrity.

Different criminal offenses, of course, merit different sentences, but when you have a group of innocent journalists being hit with felony charges for doing their job, while a perverted creep is sentenced to a tenth of the time in prison they could be facing, you have to question –what the hell is wrong with the justice system in the US?

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