Journalist 'manhandled' by FCC security guards

20 May, 2017, 07:38 | Author: Leticia Walters
  • Enlarge  FCC Commissioner Michael O

A group of senators have fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him for answers as to why a reporter was manhandled by a security guard as he tried to ask a question following a meeting on Thursday.

Reporter John Donnelly of CQ Roll Call said in a statement issued by the National Press Club that the guards roughed him up and removed him from the building under implied threat of force Thursday.

Donnelly claims that when he approached FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly to ask him a question, two security guards pinned Donnelly against a wall with their backs until the commissioner walked past.

O'Rielly saw the encounter but continued walking, Donnelly said in a statement through the National Press Club, where he heads the Press Freedom Team.

"Incidents like these, occurring under a president who has openly threatened a free press, take on a greater and more ominous significance", the National Press Club said in a statement Friday.

"We apologized to Mr. Donnelly a couple of times and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats", said Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman said.

The FCC incident marks the second time this month law enforcement used force against a reporter asking federal officials questions.

O'Rielly also apologized to Donnelly via Twitter, saying, "I didn't see anyone put a hand on you". He was then escorted from the building.

The press club's account of the incident identified one of the guards as Frederick Bucher, who was also accused last summer of confiscating a reporter's press credentials after the reporter talked to a protester at an FCC meeting.

Udall and Hassan tied the alleged incident to "a larger pattern of hostility towards the press" under the Trump administration.

Pitching questions to public officials in public areas after a press conference is standard practice for reporters who cover government.

Jeff Ballou, president of the National Press Club, said in a statement that Donnelly was doing his job with "characteristic civility", adding "it is completely unacceptable to physically restrain a reporter who has done nothing wrong or force him or her to leave a public building as if a crime had been committed". Donnelly said he was working on a story unrelated to net neutrality and did not want to ask questions in front of other reporters. FCC officials apologized to Shields after that incident.

Donnelly said he appreciated the FCC's apology and hoped it leads to changes in how reporters and the public are treated.

Bucher did not respond to an email request for comment on Friday.

"I thought they were just doing it to prevent anyone from getting too close to the commissioners, which I would understand as a security measure, " Donnelly told Mic. I wanted to ask questions one-on-one.

"They had been kind of shadowing me all day, which was weird", he said.

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