A Native American journalist is arrested while covering Standing Rock.
This is Trahant Reports.
There is an idea in law enforcement called the “thin blue line.” It basically means that police work together. A call goes out from Morton County and, right or wrong, law enforcement from around the country provides back up.
You would think journalism would be like that, too.
When one journalist is threatened, we all are. We cannot do our jobs when we worry about being injured or worse. And when a journalist is arrested? Well, everyone who claims the First Amendment as a framework should object loudly.
Last Wednesday Jenni Monet was arrested near Cannonball, North Dakota. She was interviewing water protectors who were setting up a new camp near the Dakota Access Pipeline route on treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation. Law enforcement from Morton County surrounded the camp and captured everyone within the circle. A press release from the sheriff’s Department puts it this way: “Approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protestors were arrested.” Most were charged with criminal trespassing and inciting a riot.
As was Jenni Monet.
She is facing serious charges and the judicial process will go forward. The truth will come out.
But this story is about the failure of journalism institutions.
The Native press and the institutions that carry her work had Monet’s back. That includes Indian Country Media Network, Yes! Magazine, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The Lost Angeles Times has now weighed in with its own story written by Sandy Tolan who’s done some great reporting from Standing Rock.
But in North Dakota you would not know this arrest happened. The press is silent.
After her release from jail, Monet wrote for Indian Country Media Network, “When Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman was charged with the same allegations I now face—criminal trespassing and rioting—her message to the world embraced the First Amendment. ‘There’s a reason why journalism is explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution,’ she said before a crowd gathered in front of the Morton County courthouse. “Because we’re supposed to be the check and balance on power.”
The funny thing is that journalism institutions were not quick to embrace Goodman either. I have talked to many journalists who see her as an “other” because she practices a different kind of journalism than they do.
Monet’s brand of journalism is rooted in facts and good reporting. She talks to everyone on all sides of the story, including the Morton County Sheriff and North Dakota’s new governor. She also has street cred … and knows how to tell a story.
So if we ever need journalism institutions to rally, it’s now. It’s not Jenni Monet who will be on trial. It’s the First Amendment. Journalism is not a crime. I am Mark Trahant.