As the City Paper reported last night, The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, regarding the arrest over the weekend of Scene reporter Jonathan Meador as he was covering the Occupy Nashville protests on Legislative Plaza. The SPJ letter calls for charges against Meador to be dropped, and asks for a subsequent apology from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
Below is the SPJ's letter. Coming up in the next post, Gibbons' response to an earlier request for apology by SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell, pending a formal response later this week.
Governor Haslam and Commissioner Gibbons:
The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the undersigned members of its board of directors write in protest to the unlawful arrest and detention of Nashville Scene reporter Jonathan Meador. The conduct of state police in this matter was outrageous, interfered with legitimate newsgathering, and clearly violated Mr. Meador’s rights as a journalist under the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions.
Mr. Meador was there on assignment to cover a matter of great public interest — an event made even more newsworthy by previous actions of the state and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Video evidence proves Mr. Meador clearly and repeatedly identified himself as a member of the news media. Working journalists should not have to risk being harassed and arrested in the course of doing their job.
We respectfully request that all charges against Mr. Meador be withdrawn and that he receive an apology from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. We also respectfully request an independent investigation of the conduct of officers involved in Mr. Meador’s arrest and that THP personnel receive training on the constitutional rights of the media and those involved in newsgathering so that similar situations can be avoided in the future.
A prompt response to our concerns will be greatly appreciated.
Deborah Fisher, president; senior editor of news, The Tennessean
Frank Gibson, treasurer; director, Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
Joe Morris, secretary; writer/editor, Parthenon Publishing
Sharon Fitzgerald; newsletter chair; instructor, School of Journalism, MTSU
Rhori Johnston, board member; news anchor, News Channel 5
Brian Reisinger, board member; reporter, Nashville Business Journal
Blake Farmer; board member; reporter, Nashville Public Radio
Nate Rau, board member; reporter, The Tennessean
Caroline Moses, board member; investigative reporter WSMV-TV
Steve Cavendish, board member, editor, Nashville City Paper
Thom Storey, board member; chair, Media Studies Department, Belmont University
Gene Policinski, board member; executive director, First Amendment Center
Milt Capps, board member
Jimmy McCollum, board member; associate professor, Department of Communication and Journalism, Lipscomb University