St. Paul has announced it won’t prosecute any of the journalists who were rounded up in the various protests during the week of the Republican National Convention.
The announcement comes just a few days between the Society of Professional Journalists is to hold a discussion with journalists and law enforcement officials about the arrests.
Still unclear is how the police are going to approach the situation next time. St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington has said one of the biggest problems his department faced was determining who was a credentialed journalist at the RNC, and who was ‘self credentialed.’
The decision will only affect people identified as journalists who face the misdemeanor charge. Recognizing the growing media profession in print, broadcast and the Internet, the city attorney’s office will use a broad definition and verification to identify journalists who were caught up in mass arrests during the convention. It is not known how many cases this decision will affect.
Does this include, for example, the person Chief Harrington said claimed to be a journalist but turned out to be a clerk at Walgreen’s?
Update 1:34 p.m. What’s the definition of journalist? MPR’s Laura Yuen talked with city attorney John Choi about that and got this:
“We’re going to apply a broad definition of it. That’s one of the things that the city attorney is going to take a look at: who is claiming to be a journalist, and what’s their basis for their claim? We will try to apply it as broadly as possible, knowing that journalism is changing very dramatically and very quickly. It is no longer the kind of traditional three media outlets in a town. You have a lot of different sources and a lot of different people who are acting as journalists.”
What about bloggers? Mayor Chris Coleman said the city would have to look at each case individually.
Laura will have a story on tonight’s All Things Considered.
Update 3:17 p.m. The “Free Press” organization sends a news release:
The news from St. Paul City Hall is certainly welcome regarding the decision to drop charges against journalists who were arrested and cited during the RNC,” said Mike Bucsko, executive officer of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union, who spoke at the press conference. “However, it is essential the elected officials in St. Paul and Ramsey County examine the circumstances that led to the needless detention and harassment of journalists to ensure this type of indiscriminate behavior on the part of law enforcement does not happen again.”
And provides a link to the group’s news conference.