Freedom of Expression

Press release 128/20

United States: UN and OAS experts condemn use of force against journalists covering protests in the US

June 8, 2020

Washington D.C. - The monitors for freedom of expression for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights issued the following joint statement:

We have received numerous reports of journalists attacked, harassed, arrested and detained in the course of their work covering protests in the United States against systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. Law enforcement has the duty to ensure the safety of journalists who are covering protests and to guarantee the right of the public to seek and receive information about these social mobilizations. The press plays an essential watchdog role in democratic societies. We remind all public authorities in the United States of the following:

First, federal, state and local authorities must afford media workers the highest degree of protection in order for them to perform their work freely. This obligation includes both the duty to avoid the use or threat of force against journalists and to protect journalists against third party violence. The targeting of media workers with lethal or less-lethal force for doing their work is prohibited under international human rights law and contrary to best policing standards. Those violating such rules must be subject to accountability and disciplinary processes.


Second, public authorities should condemn attacks against journalists and promote the role played by the press. We repeat our previously raised serious concerns that statements by the President of the United States, especially his years-long attack on the media as an ‘enemy of the people,’ contribute to an environment of hostility and intolerance.


Third, we are deeply concerned that the militarization of policing in the United States not only interferes with the right to peacefully assemble but also limits the ability of the press to cover protests. It encourages law enforcement to see protesters and journalists as belligerents, and we strongly encourage demilitarization and a reliance on international standards for the management of protests.


We will continue to monitor the situation in the United States and communicate with authorities, as the situation requires.


* The experts: Mr David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Mr Edison LanzaIACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression