Arrest of Connecticut journalist covering demonstration draws condemnation
Police in Connecticut this week briefly detained a reporter who was covering a demonstration in Bridgeport before releasing her without any charges, an act that drew rebukes from free press advocates.
According to the New England First Amendment Coalition, Tara O’Neill was arrested Thursday night as she watched from a public sidewalk a demonstration to mark the second anniversary of an officer-involved shooting that killed 15-year-old Jayson Negron.
O’Neill covers police and breaking news for the Connecticut Post, a Hearst Connecticut Media outlet. That paper reported that O’Neill was held for about a half-hour before being released without being charged. The outlet said O’Neill identified herself to police as a journalist.
Matt DeRienzo, vice president of news and digital content at Hearst Connecticut Media Group, told the Hartford Courant that police arresting O’Neill “feels like retaliation and intimidation against the press for holding them accountable.”
The First Amendment coalition, meanwhile, said O’Neill’s arrest was inexcusable and called for the Bridgeport police chief to present a full public explanation of what happened, release the name of the arresting officer, issue an apology, and review its policies and procedures.
“We call on you to be transparent about last night’s events, be accountable for the actions of your department and begin working with local newsrooms to restore the public trust that was lost last night with O’Neill’s arrest,” Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, wrote in a statement on behalf of the group.
The New England Society of News Editors, New England Newspaper & Press Association, and the Associated Press also condemned the arrest in a joint letter.
“NESNE’s board members are united in their belief in the need for press freedom, and concerned how the arrest of any reporter covering a story undermines it,” said NESNE president Paula Bouknight, who is The Boston Globe’s assistant managing editor for hiring and development, in a statement.
Bridgeport is located on the Long Island Sound in the southwest part of Connecticut, about 60 miles from New York City.