Josh Stearns of media-reform group Free Press has been tracking journalist arrests at Occupy protests since September (see his complete list below). He constantly scans Twitter for mentions of latest arrests, tries to verify by contacting publications affiliated with the journalists in question, and updates their status on the list he maintains at Storify, the social-media curation site.
Unlike the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where riot police ripped press credentials off journalists’ necks and tampered with recording equipment, Stearns doesn’t believe there’s an intentional effort by law enforcement officials to target journalists covering Occupy protests. “Journalists are just getting swept up as part of the general ‘nuisance,'” he says, “and cops are finding it easier to sweep house and get the details later.” And in the age of smartphone reporting, Twitter, and livestream video, it’s hard to tell who’s a credentialed journalist and who isn’t—or what that means for journalism.
“These arrests are a symptom of a larger debate about how we understand the First Amendment in a digital age, as the institutions that traditionally embodied those freedoms shift and change,” Stearns writes on his blog. “As more and more of our speech moves online and over mobile networks, and as our press is distributed across vast human and technological networks, we need to contend with new kinds of First Amendment issues.”