The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern over the recent arrest of The Independent’s Andrew Buncombe while he was covering Seattle police breaking up the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP).
When contacted by The Independent about Mr Buncombe’s detainment and arrest on 1 July, CPJ programme director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said: “We are very concerned by the recent arrest of Andrew Buncombe in Seattle.”
CPJ is an independent, non-profit organisation that tracks freedom of press around the world and works to protect journalists on the job.
The organisation and the US Press Freedom Tracker have recorded “an unprecedented number of press freedom incidents related to the demonstrations across the country on racism and police brutality, including at least 64 arrests and 112 physical attacks” since 26 May, Mr Martinez de la Serna added.
Protests across the United States started on 26 May following the death of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officers. Protesters and journalists were arrested in multiple cities, now including The Independent’s own chief US correspondent.
“We are horrified by the continued use of harsh and sometimes violent police actions against journalists who are doing their jobs,” Mr Martinez de la Serna said.
America witnessed a CNN reporter being detained on-air when reporting the protests in Minneapolis. But that reporter was later released without getting arrested and booked, and Minnesota governor Tim Walz issued a public apology.
Mr Buncombe was arrested and detained for 10 hours in a Seattle jail by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), despite consistently identifying himself as a journalist. Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan said last week she hoped all charges against protesters would be dropped, but Mr Buncombe has received no information regarding dropped charges.
“The officers took my phone, and told me I was under arrest. I requested several times that they tell me what I was being charged with, and read me my rights. They told me I had the ‘right to remain silent’, but were unable or unwilling to tell me the charge,” Mr Buncombe wrote when detailing his detainment and arrest for The Independent.
He faced charges of “failure to disperse” and was awaiting a letter from the court about when he would appear in front of a judge.
The SPD said it had forwarded details of Mr Buncombe’s arrest to the Office of Police Accountability for review.