Let me start by saying I do not know Adam Mueller, the founder of copblock.org – I’m not even sure I would agree with his defense when he goes to trial. But, I do know that with the expansion of citizen journalism, we are witnessing a response from law enforcement that seems intent on marginalizing anyone who doesn’t have a press pass from the major news companies. This cannot continue to be acceptable behavior in the modern world. Anyone with a passion for reporting should have an opportunity to do so. Anyone living in the United States should be free of prosecution, so long as they do not commit an actual crime. “Filming” a police officer abusing his or her power is not a crime, and we should stand beside those who expose this pathos.
A Healthy Society Requires Healthy Journalism
I suppose it’s easy for us to ignore such instances, because they – typically – don’t affect us personally. However, with the rise of these unlawful detainment’s and the new direction law enforcement seems to be taking in response to citizen journalists, we are all at risk. Yes that includes you, the reader.
Imagine this scenario: One night a friend calls you up to go out to dinner or grab a drink. After a short time, you decide to step outside and have a cigarette or get some air. All of a sudden; sirens blare, police lights are flashing and you witness an officer step out of his vehicle to approach a suspect. The action has quickly caught your attention, but you also notice the escalation of tone from both the officer and the suspect, so you take out your phone to record the incident – perhaps you just acted on an impulse, but no malice was intended. Wouldn’t you feel wronged too if you were arrested for filming the event?
This is what citizen journalists do every day. They aren’t (all) actively searching for criminal police behavior, sometimes a new’s story can be derived, other times not. But, regardless of what is filmed a person should not be subject to prosecution for simply being attentive and interested. Ethical lines do exist in every profession, journalism is no different, and I will not condone the actions of those who cross these lines. But, I will stand up for anyone who is just trying to help create a more just society.
We all want to see justice served, at least I continue to hope that is the case. For justice to prevail we must maintain a firm grasp on the truth. Without truth being exposed, we are able to be subjected to propaganda tactics that cover-up what is true in order to benefit a select few. When the truth is in focus, however, we cannot fall victim to those propaganda tactics because we have already seen where the truth lies. Different versions of a story may come out, and a legitimate defense can be made in many cases, but the truth behind the matter in question must be made known.
Many journalists are trying to provide us all with the truth. They risk their equipment, their time, and – in some cases – their lives to bring us the news. Not every lead they follow will turn into a story, and not every story they write will be read, but they put in the effort so that you don’t have to. We should respect this profession and hold it to a higher standard than others. Truth is not subjective, after all. Beliefs get in the way of that sometimes, but the truth exists regardless of whether or not you believe in it. Citizen journalists aren’t held in the same esteem as so-called professional’s, although they should be. In the world we live in today, and with that chart I linked to explaining just how entrenched our major news outlets have become, we are becoming more dependent on citizens to act responsibly and report heinous acts of police brutality, protests that receive little-to-no attention, and unbiased points of view so that we may develop our own opinion around the truth itself.
My one hope for all of us – is that we can come together on this very basic principle; justice is best served when the truth is in clear view.