NOVEMBER 2021 - The Arrest of Journalists, Ali Velshi, and Media Rights

MSNBC’s post on YouTube video published on May 30, 2020. In this video, the journalist, Ali Velshi, is reporting on the current protests for the Black Lives Matter Protest. While he and his crew are on the scene reporting, they are being fired at by the police with tear gas. This video shows that incident unfolding. (Courtesy MSNBC)

By: Izzy Scattaglia

In May of 2020, protests broke out all over the United States after an unarmed black man named George Floyd was killed by a police officer. These protests were often in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which opposes systemic racism. Many journalists were injured while reporting these protests, Including Ali Velshi, an anchor for MSNBC who was shot in the leg by a rubber bullet and hit with tear gas by the police after stating that he was a journalist.

According to The Washington Post, Ali Velshi was reporting on a peaceful protest in Minneapolis when he was confronted by the police in an almost vacant parking lot. After stating that he and his crew were members of the news media, the police officers fired rubber bullets at them, stating they did not care.

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of the press. According to the American Press Institute, “the publisher of journalism must show an ultimate allegiance to citizens,” as their first loyalty is to the citizens and it is a journalist’s right and job to provide this information to the people. Journalists cannot uphold their commitment to the people if their rights to report on major events are being hindered. According to the Resource Centre, “demonizing the media is “the willingness to smear journalists or the outlets they report for, rather than debate the facts, in order to warp the public’s right to information.”

These protests continued for months and many other journalists faced similar situations, like Michael Anthony Adams, who was held down by the police and then sprayed in the face with tear gas after stating he was a member of the press. The Washington Post reported, “whether these assaults are happening by accident or on purpose, they have the effect of impeding the news — hampering the public’s ability to see and judge the behavior of officials who are accountable to them.”

The New York Times later highlighted a statement made by President Trump in regard to the incident with Ali Velshi and other protestors. He said that “it was the most beautiful thing… It’s called law and order.” Ali Velshi then questioned the President in a tweet, asking “what law did I break while covering an entirely peaceful (yes, entirely peaceful) march?”

When a person in a position of power, like President Trump, makes statements like this it can have detrimental effects on the public’s trust in journalists. According to a New York Times article, MSNBC replied to the event and said, “when the president mocks a journalist for the injury he sustained while putting himself in harm’s way to inform the public, he endangers thousands of other journalists and undermines our freedoms.”

It is the job of journalists to report truthfully and accurately on important events that have an effect on the people, as their first loyalty is to the citizens. When the rights of journalists are being questioned or forgotten, the people are affected as well. The ability for news to be available to the public is dependent on the freedoms of journalists to report it.

Works Cited
Caucaso, Osservatorio Balcani e. Demonising the Media: Threats to Journalists in Europe. Media Freedom Resource Centre OBCT, www.rcmediafreedom.eu/Publications/Reports/Demonising-the-media-Threats-to-journalists-in-Europe.
Gray, Katti. Why Do So Many Americans Distrust the Media? The Pulitzer Prizes, www.pulitzer.org/article/why-do-so-many-americans-distrust-media.
Paul Farhi, Elahe Izadi. (2020) ‘The Norms Have Broken down’: Shock as Journalists Are Arrested, Injured by Police While Trying to Cover the Story. The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/journalists-at-several-protests-were-injured-arrested-by-police-while-trying-to-cover-the-story/2020/05/31/bfbc322a-a342-11ea-b619-3f9133bbb482_story.html.
Robertson, Katie. (2020) Trump Turns Attack on MSNBC Journalist Into Rally Fodder. The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/business/media/trump-ali-velshi.html.
(2019) The Elements of Journalism. American Press Institute, www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/elements-journalism/.
Viner, Katharine. (2017) A Mission for Journalism in a Time of Crisis. The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/16/a-mission-for-journalism-in-a-time-of-crisis.