Media Organizations Send Letter To LA Sheriff’s Dept. Condemning Arrest Of KPCC/LAist Reporter Josie Huang

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 64 media organizations have sent a letter to the LA County Sheriff’s Department today condemning the arrest of KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang.

Huang was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice on Sept. 12 after the Saturday night shooting of two L.A. County Sheriffs. A crowd of agitators gathered outside St. Francis Medical Center, where the shooting victims were taken. The crowd blocked the emergency entrance and exit and chanted, “We hope they die,” the sheriff’s department said in a tweet. Huang states she was merely trying to cover the volatile scene when she was arrested.

The letter called for obstruction charge against her to be dropped and for the department to take steps to avoid future arrests of working media members. Earlier, SAG-AFTRA also protested Huang’s arrest.

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Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee, issued a statement in conjunction with the letter. “Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies should never have arrested and charged Josie Huang, who was reporting on protests that are of immense public interest and concern. The charge against her must be dropped, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department owes both the press and the public an explanation as to why she was violently arrested, especially in light of multiple video recordings showing her clearly, loudly and repeatedly identifying herself as a journalist.”

In a letter sent to Sheriff Alex Villanueva today, Reporters Committee attorneys note that Huang was arrested and cited for obstruction despite wearing a visible press lanyard and badge, as well as verbally identifying herself as a journalist who works for KPCC multiple times.

“The right to record police activity in public is clearly established, and an officer who violates that First Amendment freedom — especially through the use of force — enjoys no legal immunity,” the letter states.

EARLIER: LAist reporter Josie Huang has been released from county jail after being arrested Saturday night while covering a protest outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

After the Saturday night shooting of two L.A. County Sheriffs, a crowd gathered outside St. Francis Medical Center, where the shooting victims were taken. The crowd blocked the emergency entrance and exit and chanted, “We hope they die,” the sheriff’s department said in a tweet.

Huang, an award-winning journalist, was arrested for allegedly obstructing justice. Video shows at least five deputies pinning Huang to the pavement, handcuffing her, and placing her in a patrol car.

The department initially refused to provide details of what happened, but later, Deputy Juanita Navarro of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau confirmed that deputies took Huang into custody on suspicion of obstruction of justice by “interfering with a lawful arrest.” Huang says she was trying to document the rest of a protester.

Navarro also said Huang “didn’t have proper credentials,” but video shows she was wearing press credentials around her neck.

KPCC, the Southern California Public Radio station which runs LAist, issued this official statement: “We offer condolences to the two sheriff deputies who were shot Saturday evening. These are challenging and stressful times for everyone, but Josie Huang was arrested while doing her job. The charges should be dropped.

“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers. Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk.”

Huang’s arrest was condemned by NPR and other media members in a series of tweets on the incident.

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