INDIANAPOLIS — Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, last week wrote Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta expressing disapproval of the city’s prosecution of two student journalists. The journalists, Alisen Redmond of Kennesaw State University’s The Sentinel and Judith Kim of Georgia State University’s The Signal, were covering an Occupy Atlanta protest last November when they were arrested for “obstruction of traffic.”
Albarado noted that other journalists on the street, which had been closed to traffic, were not arrested. The two spent 14 hours in jail and, nearly a year later, face a trial in Atlanta City Court.
On behalf of the Society of nearly 8,000 journalists, Albarado condemned the infringement upon Redmond and Kim’s First Amendment rights and called for Reed to seek dismissal of the charges. A copy of Albarado’s letter follows this news release.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.
October 3, 2012
Hon. Kasim Reed City of Atlanta 55 Trinity Avenue Atlanta, GA 30303
RE: Alisen Redmond and Judith Kim
Dear Mayor Reed,
As president of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest and largest journalism organization, I am writing to express my deep concern and disappointment that Atlanta’s City Attorney continues to prosecute two young journalists who were arrested last November while covering an “Occupy Atlanta” demonstration near Woodruff Park.
Our organization’s leaders were dismayed last year when police arrested Alisen Redmond of Kennesaw State University’s The Sentinel and Judith Kim of Georgia State University’s The Signal while they were photographing and recording matters of public concern on a public street and charged with “obstruction of traffic.” Yet police did not similarly charge other journalists who were standing in the same street, which police had closed to traffic.
Imagine our further dismay upon learning that these journalists – even though they spent 14 hours in jail on the weakest of misdemeanor charges – remain subject to trial on Oct. 12 before Chief Judge Crystal Gaines in Atlanta City Court.
These were student journalists on assignment for their college newspapers, and they are no less journalists than reporters for CNN or the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They identified themselves as journalists, but it appears from the available evidence that police targeted them because they looked like “kids.”
To continue to prosecute the case against these journalists adds to the harassment and intimidation they suffered when arrested in November.
The entire case represents a serious infringement of First Amendment protections of a free press and creates a “chilling effect” on journalists covering future events in your city.
As a representative of more than 8,000 journalists, including many in your state, I ask that you consider the detrimental effect this incident has on Atlanta’s image and use your office to help seek an immediate dismissal of the charges against Ms. Redmond and Ms. Kim in the interest of justice.
I also suggest you and your police department take advantage of an offer by the National Press Photographers Association to receive training in policies and practices that can help avoid similar situations in the future.
Sincerely, Sonny Albarado President Society of Professional Journalists