NewsGuild joins call: Drop charges against KPCC reporter

Updated Sept. 18, 2020 to include the sheriff’s response.

Sept. 17, 2020 – The NewsGuild-CWA joined more than 60 press freedom and journalism organizations Wednesday calling on Los Angeles law enforcement officers to drop charges against reporter Josie Huang, who was violently arrested and charged with obstruction while reporting on Sept. 12.

Huang is one of dozens of reporters who have been arrested this year alone, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Video of her arrest was posted on Twitter and was widely condemned.

In a Sept. 16 letter initiated by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the groups urged to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to drop the charges against Huang and to take immediate steps to prevent another similar incident. Huang is a reporter for KPCC, a National Public Radio affiliate, and is represented by SAG-AFTRA.

She was arrested while she was covering protests outside a hospital where two deputies were being treated for gunshot wounds they suffered in an “ambush” attack.

“That’s what surprises me the most is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her,” L.A. County Inspector Gen. Max Huntsman told  the Los Angeles Times.

“The L.A. County Sheriff clearly violated the First Amendment by arresting Josie,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss. “Law enforcement in every corner of America must face consequences for violating our press freedoms.”

In a written response, Sheriff Villanueva claimed to be an advocate of responsible reporting and said he believes in transparency. “Unfortunately, Ms. Huang became part of the problem by inserting herself too close to the situation,” he wrote.

“The only ‘part of the problem’ is having a militarized police force infringing on the First Amendment rights of Americans,” Schleuss said on Friday.