Statement from the Hubbard School on the treatment of journalists during local civil unrest

Recent civil unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul has drawn national attention to the relationship between media, protestors and law enforcement officials. The Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication is dedicated to teaching students and training professionals to be leaders in their fields and to be thoughtful, productive citizens in their communities and in public life.

“Less than a year ago during social unrest, we stated unequivocally that the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication takes seriously its responsibility to educate the public on the rights and responsibilities protecting press freedoms covered by the First Amendment,” said Elisia Cohen, Director and Professor of the Hubbard School. “It is disheartening that even after a court order protecting journalists to ensure their First Amendment right to lawfully cover protests, documentation provided to the U.S. District Court demonstrates that journalists have been ordered to disperse from covering protests, targeted for detention and photography, and prevented from conducting lawful newsgathering by officers in Brooklyn Center. We support the work of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law to document journalist detention and use of force by law enforcement, and are particularly concerned about the reports by journalists of color who reported disparate treatment.” 

On April 17, 2021, the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law joined 26 news organizations and press advocacy groups in a letter written by Ballard Spahr attorney Leita Walker and sent to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, his spokesperson Teddy Tschann, Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and Minnesota State Patrol Chief Matt Langer. The letter aimed to “impress upon [them] the gravity of the misconduct [by law enforcement] and to memorialize . . . the media’s expectations going forward.” The letter asserted that “[t]he First Amendment is clear: journalists have a robust right of access to gather and report the news without fear of intrusion or interference by law enforcement.”  

Jane E. Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law and director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, which is housed within the Hubbard School, also stated: “Members of the public have a First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, and the news media have a concomitant right to report on those peaceful protests. When tensions escalate, and law enforcement responds, it is essential that law enforcement neither impedes nor harasses journalists who provide a window on these activities. As we have seen during the coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial, the public relies on the independent news media to facilitate oversight and understanding of the criminal justice process.”

Through teaching, research and outreach, the School strives to improve the practice of ethical and responsible reporting, both on campus and in the community. Danielle Kilgo, John and Elizabeth Bates Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity, and Equality reminds professionals of the importance of remaining independent. She recently wrote a report for The Conversation describing the importance of journalists relying on diverse sources of information for their reporting, and of questioning and verifying information.
Located in Minneapolis in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication is a national leader in education, research and service. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the Hubbard School offers graduate, professional and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing education programs for working professionals through its Minnesota Journalism Center and Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law.