Robert Stolarik, a contract photographer for the New York Times, was beaten, handcuffed and had his equipment seized while photographing a street arrest in the Bronx on 4 August. He faces criminal charges of obstructing government administration and resisting arrest.
Reporters Without Borders urges that the charges be dismissed. The organization notes that police have kept his press credentials and refused to return his equipment, which could serve as evidence in the case. "It’s hard to go out and feel comfortable doing my job with pending charges," Stolarik told the press freedom organization. His court date is set for 29 November.
“The brutal arrest of Robert Stolarik shows that the police are far from learning the lessons of their numerous attacks on freedom of information during Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. More than 80 journalists suffered police violence and in some cases criminal charges in a dozen cities since September, 2011,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These abuses demand serious investigation, as well as better police training, to which journalists can contribute. Recent cases – including that of Robert Stolarik – underline the need for these steps.”
Stolarik was photographing the arrest of a 16-year-old girl when police on the scene ordered him to stop. He identified himself as a journalist working for the Times and asked for their badge numbers. Handcuffed, thrown to the ground and kicked, as he protested, the journalist was taken to a police precinct and was released shortly after 4 AM.
Robert Stolarik has a sore back and abrasions to the arms, legs and face.
In light of the attack, Stolarik told Reporters Without Borders that he would not be covering the Republican Party convention in Tampa on 27-30 August.
The organization expresses the hope that the convention does not give rise to further violence against journalists, as occurred during the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis. More recently, in January of this year, Memphis journalist Casey Monroe of ABC 24 News was arrested and held briefly after video-recording an arrest. A similar case occurred in Baltimore in February.
Charged with wiretapping
Adam Mueller, founder of the online police accountability news site CopBlock, is facing 21 years in prison on three charges of wiretapping. His trial is scheduled on 13 August.
Mueller was covering a fight between students in Manchester, N.H. He interviewed their school principal, a secretary and a police officer, informing them that he was a journalist. Those interviewed say they didn’t know they were being recorded, which is illegal under state law.
“The wiretapping charge is inappropriate in these circumstances,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Once an individual identifies himself as a journalist, and his subjects agree to speak with him, must he obtain special authorization to record their conversation? We expect the New Hampshire court to acquit Adam Mueller of this charge, which is wildly out of proportion to the events involved.”