NABJ Member’s Lawsuit in Ohio Arrest Continues to Raise Concerns About Press Freedom
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has been outspoken in recent years about a surge in efforts to suppress press freedom. We issue this statement to once again implore all federal government, state, county, and city officials and authorities to uphold the First Amendment. A journalist should never be hindered from seeking the truth and reporting it.
Recently, and unfortunately, our member Evan Lambert, a respected D.C.-based News Nation reporter, has had to file a lawsuit after being pushed to the ground and arrested by local authorities in East Palestine, Ohio — simply for doing his job and reporting live from Gov. Mike DeWine’s February news conference.
Lambert’s lawsuit alleges that Columbiana County, Ohio, the city of East Palestine, and five law enforcement members violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution as well as state law. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, states that those violations were the results of “inadequate policies, inadequate training, and the personal participation of key policymaking officials in the decision to arrest and charge Lambert for his newsgathering.”
“A lawsuit should never be required in order to foster a safer environment for journalists in our communities,” said NABJ President Ken Lemon and past Chair of the Black Male Media Project. “In a time where reporters are being harassed in their press gear and Black men continue to be harmed at the hands of police, the imagery of Evan being pushed, handcuffed, and placed in a cruiser while working in a professional, harmless capacity is still disturbing.”
In February, NABJ called for:
- A public apology with outlined steps local authorities would take to ensure this happens to no other journalists.
- An explanation as to why Lambert was the only reporter arrested when other journalists were on site.
- Information and details about when and if the charges would be dropped against Lambert.
After Lambert’s arrest, Gov. Mike DeWine ultimately urged prosecutors to drop the charges, saying that Lambert had every right to cover the news conference. The governor also made it clear that he had not authorized anyone to prohibit live shots or remove Lambert from conducting one.
We will remain watchful as fellow journalists and NABJ members are still concerned about their safety and having safe spaces that will allow them to do their jobs freely.
NABJ Parliamentarian Sia Nyorkor, who is also a reporter in Cleveland, witnessed, recorded and posted what happened to Lambert. She said it was disturbing to experience the incident firsthand as a veteran reporter who knows the importance of telling stories in the community and being present as a Black journalist.
“Every effort should be made so that it won’t happen again in such venues across the country,” Nyorkor said. “We must continue to bring attention to such an abuse of journalistic rights. A lack of respect for press freedom is also a lack of respect for the citizens who deserve to hear and see the facts.”
Read NABJ’s initial statement on this matter here: https://nabjonline.org/blog/nabj-calls-for-charges-to-be-dropped-against-evan-lambert/.