Friday, October 14, 2016

Charges Dropped Against Amy Goodman, So Journalism Continues.

Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman is still facing
charges from her reporting in North Dakota, shown
here, of an anti-oil pipeline protest. Add caption

A North Dakota judge has declined to proceed with a rioting charge against Amy Goodman, her news organization, Democracy Now! just announced.

District Judge John Grinsteiner did not find probable cause for the charge, Democracy Now! reports.

So, journalism and the First Amendment lives for now, it seems.


It seems the State's Attorney in North Dakota is digging in much more, in a bid to discourage journalism, or get publicity. Whatever.

After Amy Goodman announced she would go to North Dakota to answer the bogus trespassing charges for her coverage of a Native American anti-oil pipeline there, they want to up the criminal charges against her.

Goodman on Saturday announced the attempt at the steeper criminal charges on the Democracy Now! website.

The State's Attorney, Ladd Erickson, wants to add a charge of rioting against Goodman, who, as you can see in her video from the protest, isn't exactly rioting.

Kinda just filming and asking questions, like, you know, journalists tend to do.

A judge will decide Monday if there's probable cause to add the rioting charge.


A couple months back, we mentioned Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman, who faces charges in North Dakota for the crime of covering a protest, mostly by Native Americans, against an oil pipeline that was under construction.

Freedom Of The Press Foundation quoted Goodman yesterday as such:

"I will go back to North Dakota to fight this charge.... It is a clear violation of the First Amendment. I was doing my job as a journalist, covering a violent attack on Native American Protestors."

Back on September 3, Goodman was the only journalist, or at least one of only a few journalists, who were on the scene as Native Americans went onto the property of the pipeline construction, and were met with security guards wielding pepper spray.

Goodman and her crew got it all on video, and that video went viral. It got no fewer than 14 million views on Facebook, and the video and story were picked up by major news outlets like CBS, NBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and Huffington Post.

Days later, the Obama administration suspended construction of the pipeline, pending further review. The protestors feared the pipeline would contaminate drinking water and despoil Native American burial grounds.

As I noted when I first mentioned this outrage, it seems to me the increased publicity brought on by Goodman and the resulting shutdown annoyed state officials, many of whom benefit politically and maybe financially from the oil industry.

They were trying to teach other journalists a lesson: Stay away, don't criticize, don't cover or ELSE.

Amazingly, North Dakota prosecutors have not backed down, despite the additional uproar over the likely unconstitutionality of charging Goodman.

As Freedom Of the Press Foundation notes, the prosecutor in the case said, "Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions."

In other words, the problem for prosecutors is they thought Goodman was biased. Even if she was, you don't get to press charges against the journalist who created the allegedly biased reporting.

There's this little item called the First Amendment. Unless Goodman intentionally spread false, damaging information about people - which she didn't - you don't charge her. In fact, even if she was spreading malicious falsehoods -again, she wasn't. - you can try suing in civil court, but criminal courts stay out.

I'm not sure why North Dakota prosecutors are still pursuing this losing case. You'd think they'd have something better to do.

But we all ought to pay attention. With Donald Trump also less than enthusiastic about press freedoms to say the least, we need to keep on top of these things every time they happen. 

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