Society of Professional Journalists
last week called for St. Louis County Counselor Patricia Redington
to drop a misdemeanor charge against a St. Louis Post-Dispatch
political reporter, Jake Wagman
St. Louis County Police arrested
Wagman during a rowdy "town hall" held in south county in August. Wagman was on the clock, reporting
and collecting video footage
of the health care-related event for the local daily.
Three months later, Redington charged Wagman with one count of interfering with law enforcement.
"We acknowledge that in some circumstances reporters in the heat of the moment can act disorderly and arrogant toward police," SPJ president Kevin Smith
said in a letter to Redington, "but this was clearly not one of those cases. In this situation it appears that Mr. Wagman was polite and reasonable."
Clearly it is important that police have the authority to secure a scene and maintain public safety, but in this case it appears their actions were arbitrary and unnecessary....It is essential that journalists and citizens are allowed to witness public events within reasonable bounds.
Indeed, in this case the police crossed the line, not Mr. Wagman, and while police cannot be charged for interfering with news gathering, surely there is no need to charge Mr. Wagman for interfering with police. Both sides should shake hands and move on.
Wagman will make his first court appearance in the case on January 21.