SAG-AFTRA Decries "Unacceptable" Arrest of CNN Journalists in Minneapolis

The Guild said it "stands with all of its members in ensuring that the basic rights of a free and independent press continue to be upheld. … Citizens in a democracy need the truth."
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SAG-AFTRA advocated for the rights of a free press and the First Amendment as it called out the "unacceptable" arrest of CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his colleagues Bill Kirkos and Leonel Mendez.

The team was arrested Friday morning in Minneapolis while reporting on protests that followed the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody. 

In response, the Guild, which represents 160,000 members including broadcast and online journalists, released a statement asserting that it "stands with all of its members in ensuring that the basic rights of a free and independent press continue to be upheld."

SAG-AFTRA asserted that the "primary role" of a free press is to "provide citizens with the information they need to effectively govern a democracy. These rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the press shall be free from government interference in the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions."

Additionally, the Guild emphasized that in a democracy, citizens "need the truth … SAG-AFTRA believes that journalists have an obligation to monitor and question those in power, pointing out wrongdoing when they find it, noting when facts asserted are not supported by evidence, and reporting inconsistencies in the position of public figures."

On Friday evening, protesters gathered at CNN's Atlanta headquarters, where they graffitied the CNN logo and smashed windows. Some spray painted messages included "no cops," "f*** Trump" and "#love." Protests also were held in Washington, D.C., New York and other cities.

Also Friday, Twitter placed a public interest notice on a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump about the protests, saying that it "violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence" though it didn't delete the tweet. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order aiming to remove some of the legal protections provided to social media platforms.

The full SAG-AFTRA statement follows:

As journalists it is our job to cover protests, demonstrations, marches and rallies — some peaceful, some not. We do this without interfering with protesters or law enforcement. The arrest of Omar Jimenez, who was clearly identified as a credentialed member of the news media, is unacceptable.

As a union whose membership includes broadcast and online journalists, SAG-AFTRA champions the rights of a free press, whose primary role is to provide citizens with the information they need to effectively govern a democracy. These rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the press shall be free from government interference in the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.

SAG-AFTRA, journalists and non-journalists alike, supports a free and unencumbered press and stands with any journalist who might find his or her ability to report on our government challenged or compromised.

SAG-AFTRA believes first and foremost that citizens in a democracy need the truth. Furthermore, SAG-AFTRA believes that journalists have an obligation to monitor and question those in power, pointing out wrongdoing when they find it, noting when facts asserted are not supported by evidence, and reporting inconsistencies in the positions of public figures.

As working professionals, members of the news media have an obligation to verify the accuracy of what they report, with loyalty only to their readers, listeners and viewers and not to any political party, affiliation or ideology.

As a proud labor union representing more than 160,000 broadcasters, actors and entertainers, SAG-AFTRA stands with all of its members in ensuring that the basic rights of a free and independent press continue to be upheld.