And two major journalist groups, supported by dozens of news outlets, are calling for charges in those cases to be dropped.
A week ago, the Newspaper Guild of America issued its call for prosecutors to back off with a statement that said, in part:
The NewsGuild-CWA joins with other outraged journalists in demanding that the St. Louis County prosecutor drop the trumped-up charges against two reporters who were arrested a year ago covering the Ferguson protests.
Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post were doing absolutely nothing wrong when police stormed the McDonald’s restaurant the journalists were using for a reporting base.
While attempting to comply with officers’ orders to leave the restaurant, police decided they weren’t acting quickly enough. As The Washington Post reported, “Lowery said he was given conflicting information about where to exit and was attempting to gather his bag when officers grabbed him, slammed him into a soda machine and placed plastic cuffs on him. Reilly, speaking to the Huffington Post last year, said the police gave the reporters “a countdown like we were 5-year-olds.”
The reporters were taken to a holding cell at the Ferguson police station. After a half hour, they were told they could leave without any charges filed.
Now, inexplicably and reprehensibly, Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch has made the decision to formally charge the two journalists with trespassing and interfering with a police officer. The counts carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in a county jail.
“The prosecutor’s actions are a gross abuse of power and a vile assault on the First Amendment,” NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said.
Then, just today, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, stated, in part:
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by 38 other news outlets and media organizations, has sent a letter to St. Louis County officials protesting the recent filing of criminal charges against two reporters over incidents that occurred during the protests in Ferguson, Mo., last summer.
"The best way for Ferguson to show that it will respect the First Amendment rights of journalists covering the continuing controversy there is to rescind these charges immediately," the letter stated.
Joining the Reporters Committee on the letter are: American Society of News Editors; AOL Inc. - The Huffington Post; The Associated Press; Association of Alternative Newsmedia; Bloomberg News; Cable News Network, Inc.; California Newspaper Publishers Association; and the Center for Investigative Reporting, as well as dozens of others.