Journalists Are Facing Federal Charges For Filming Pipeline Protests

Freedom of the press is in jeopardy as documentary film-makers face up to 45 years in prison on federal charges for covering oil pipeline protests.

Is freedom of the press just another casualty of war in the ongoing battle between Big Oil, law enforcement and protestors? Documentary filmmakers Deia Schlosberg, 36, and Lindsey Grayzel, 41,  are facing federal charges carrying sentences of up to 45 years in prison for filming oil pipeline protests.

Amy Goodman, anchor for Democracy Now, was recently charged with inciting a "riot" at Standing Rock, North Dakota while covering the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. There, the police have shot down media drones and even shot a journalist with rubber bullets while she was recording an interview with a peaceful protestor. 

Goodman, who is a well-known journalist, was cleared of all charges, although the fact that she was charged in the first place has sinister implications for journalism and free speech in America.

Schlosberg and Grayzel, however, are relative unknowns and their cases have largely flown under the radar of the American public.

Grayzel, a film-maker based in Portland, Oregon, was arrested on Oct. 11 while filming a protest in Skagit County, Washington state along with her cinematographer, Carl Davis. They were held for the day and had their equipment and film confiscated. Both face 30 years in prison for trespassing, felony burglary, and felony "criminal sabotage." Although they filmed a fence being broken and a valve being shut down by protestors, the journalists were only witnesses, there to document the protest.

Schlosberg, who hails from New York, has been hit with three felony charges which could add up to 45 years in prison. She was charged for filming a protest at the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota also on Oct. 11.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden made a point to tweet about these cases, pointing out that these women and Davis are facing sentences even longer than the ones he's facing.

Arresting these journalists seems to simply be a way to try to intimidate others from covering the protests and broadcasting any human rights violations to the outside world.

Concerns about oil pipeline spills, climate change, and clean water have inspired thousands to protest at Standing Rock and other pipeline sites. The dogged efforts of protestors and journalists like Grayzel and Schlosberg are opening the eyes of the American public to the fight for human rights and the environment in the face of a powerful, fossil fuel industry.

As Grayzel reported to The Guardian, "Everyone needs to be afraid when our first amendment rights are in jeopardy. This is not just about me. This is not just about Carl. This is not about Amy Goodman … This is about the public’s right to know what is going on in this country.”

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