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The New Arab Staff

Palestinian-American journalist arrested during BLM protests goes on trial in US

Andrea Sahouri faces jail time and a hefty fine if found guilty [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2021

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Andrea Sahouri was arrested in Iowa for refusing to disperse during a Black Lives Matter protest she was covering for work.

Amnesty International is urging US prosecutors to drop charges against a Palestinian-American journalist who is facing jail after she was arrested while covering Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing last year.

Andrea Sahouri, who is a public safety reporter in Iowa for The Des Moines Register, was arrested on 31 May 2020 for "interference with official acts and failure to disperse".

The case, which will go before court on Tuesday, has been widely condemned by human rights organisations as an attack on America's free press.

Sahouri faces a hefty fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

Taking to her social media pages, the journalist called on her followers to "fight" for press freedom.

"On May 31 I was arrested, detained, pepper sprayed and given two charges of interfering of official acts and failure to disperse,” she said in a video posted online.

"Since then my charges have not been dropped. Since then I continue to fight because my case is much bigger than me. It’s about protecting the freedom of the press, not just in the United States but globally.

"I’m asking people around the world to join me in this fight. To take action and to recognise that when our freedoms are threatened or taken from us, we have to continue to fight for them."

On the day in question, Sahouri recorded herself as she was arrested.

She said she had identified herself as press to police officers several times, but "police deliberately took me, pepper sprayed my face and put me in zip ties at the back of a cop car". 

"I’m just doing my job as a journalist,” she said at the time.

"It’s frightening that so many arrests and detainments have happened in a country that considers itself a beacon of press freedom," The Des Moines Register said in an editorial.

"There’s disturbing evidence in some cases that police targeted those arrested because they were journalists."

Sahouri is one of dozens of journalists arrested by US authorities in recent times.

According to the press freedom tracker, 128 journalists were been arrested in the US in 2020, with 14 journalists currently facing criminal charges.

In comparison, 2019 saw just nine journalists arrested.

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