Earth & Conservation

What Rights Do Journalists Have?

In the U.S., the number of journalists arrested during social unrest has increased. So what legal protections do members of the press have?

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Broadly speaking, journalists have the same rights as civilians. Most of international protections for journalists are outlined in the Additional Protocol section of the Geneva Convention. Many countries also outline rights for journalists in their own constitutions, including the U.S. Journalists working in America have specific protections that pertain to the gathering and distributing of information. Other countries, however, have very strict policies toward journalists and a history of censorship. Below, you'll find news stories that show this remains a vital issue in today's world:

Journalism Professor Resigns After Confronting Student Journalist

A professor at the University of Missouri, who was filmed asking for "muscle" to remove a student photojournalist from the scene of a campus protest, has left her post within the school. Melissa Click announced her resignation after a video surfaced showing her confronting Tim Tai. In the video, Tai demands that he be able to document the protests, invoking his Constitutional rights as a journalist.

UN Asks Iran to Release Journalists

Investigators from the UN's human rights organization called on Iran to end its practice of intimidating, censoring, and imprisoning journalists in the country. The investigators expressed concern over a recent surge in arrested journalists, potentially having some connection with upcoming elections in February. Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter with Iranian and U.S. citizenship, was recently convicted on espionage charges. Although President Hassan Rouhani has called for more transparent media policies, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will ultimately dictate the treatment of journalists in the country, according to reports.

VICE Reporter Awaits Trial on Terrorism Charges

As leaders from countries with the twenty largest economies convene in Turkey this week, Amnesty International is demanding Turkish authorities release journalists being held in prison. In a statement, the group called on Turkey to take a stand and promote journalistic freedom and release Mohammed Rasool, a reporter for Vice News who has been detained on terrorism charges for over 80 days with no trial.

Learn More:

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (icrc.org)
"Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1."

Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. (icrc.org)
"The undersigned Plenipotentiaries of the Governments represented at the Diplomatic Conference held at Geneva from April 21 to August 12, 1949, for the purpose of revising the Convention concluded at Geneva on July 27, 1929, relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, have agreed as follows:"

University of Missouri Professor Who Confronted Photographer Quits Journalism Post (nytimes.com)
"After a University of Missouri professor was seen on video calling for 'some muscle' to remove a journalist from a public demonstration, the professor cut her ties to the university's journalism school on Tuesday as protest organizers - and the professor herself - joined college officials in stating that journalists had a right to be present."

6 more journalists arrested in Ferguson protests (cnn.com)
"Six journalists were taken into custody while covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday and early Tuesday, aggravating what one press freedom group has called a 'concerted, top-down effort to restrict the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and the press.'"