Arresting a Reporter for Asking Questions Is an Unacceptable Assault on the First Amendment

Journalist Dan Heyman addresses the press with his attorney following his release.

A reporter in West Virginia was arrested Tuesday night for literally doing his job.

Dan Heyman, a veteran reporter with Public News Service, was covering a visit to the state capitol by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway. As they walked through the building, Heyman pressed the two on whether domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the American Health Care Act passed by the House last week.

Suddenly, he was pulled aside by Capitol police, handcuffed, and hauled off to jail. He was charged with a misdemeanor for “willful disruption of governmental processes” and only released when his employer posted a $5,000 bond. He is still awaiting a preliminary hearing.

“At some point I think they decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job, and they arrested me,” Heyman said after he was released.

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A criminal complaint alleges that Heyman was “causing a disturbance by yelling questions.” What it doesn’t note was that Heyman was actually targeted for reporting on matters critical to the public interest — not in a closed meeting or the inside of a working office, but in the hallways of a government building.

The law under which Heyman was charged can carry a fine of up to $100 and a jail sentence of up to six months.

At a time of eroding trust in our government institutions, an independent free press is more critical than ever to ensure that the people running our country are held to account. This makes Heyman’s arrest all the more distressing.

What happened in West Virginia didn’t happen in a vacuum. The president has been attempting to undermine the press on a regular basis and resists transparency at every turn. He has smeared the media as “the enemy of the people.” On the campaign trail, he revoked the credentials of some of the most prestigious news outlets in the country because he didn’t like their coverage. Reporters have been the victims of physical violence and the target of mockery. Others have been arrested and charged with felonies for covering protests.

Against this backdrop, it should come as no surprise that a reporter was arrested for trying to ask a question to a member of Trump’s cabinet. But it can never be accepted as normal.

In the 1971 Supreme Court ruling on the famous Pentagon Papers case, Justice Hugo Black wrote, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” Indeed, when our public representatives — whether the Trump administration or the West Virginia Capitol police — forget that they work for us, we need journalists to remind them. Without a free press, public officials have a much easier time evading accountability, shielding misconduct, and pushing through dangerous policies without public scrutiny. Even Thomas Jefferson, who had a quarrelsome relationship with the press, knew that “our liberty depends on the freedom of the press.”

We need journalists to be able to challenge and question public officials, loudly and persistently. For the government to stand in the way is a frontal assault on the First Amendment and the functioning of our democracy. Those who don’t want transparency in the literal halls of government have no business putting themselves in the political spotlight.

If our elected officials insist on continuing to violate one of our country’s core values, we will see them in court — in defense of Dan Heyman and of any other journalist serving the public’s right to know.

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Anonymous

There is a proper place and manner, paparazzi yelling in the halls is not the place or manner

Anonymous

Also trying to push past Secert Service. People in America are sheep and would believe any drivle.

Marjorie Scavio...

Yes I agree, that by our Goverment officials have no right to keep our Press from asking them questions that we the people want to know!! That is disregarding the First Amendment!!!

Robin Datta

You are either working for us deplorable, irredeemable basket cases, or your working / cozying up to te elites and the deep sate.

Anonymous

Thank you, ACLU

NotMyFaultOK

This is actually what the 2nd Amendment is for... not to have a gun because you like them, but to serve as a deterrent to enemies foreign and domestic, in this case a Govt that is blatantly flaunting the constitution; the armed militia is for the purpose of resisting a governing force that is attempting to subvert the democratic will of the people.
You want affordable healthcare? You want to be able to speak freely? You want the government to serve the people, not their cronies or lobbyists? Rise up, demand an extraordinary election (after suspending the current regime) and let apolitical people stand for seats across the board - people who stand for the people, not their own interests.
Nuff Said ™

Anonymous

Our rights and those of the press are being trampled.
Freedom of speech should never be hindered in any form.
We the people need to seek a peaceful solution to getting our current president to resign. He has shown that he knows little if anything about leading a Country. Before he destroys everything our forefathers fought for, he should on his own resign.

Anonymous

He wasn't doing his job. Trying to barge past. Secert Service is not part of his job.

Anonymous

ohh u mean like they did with fox news agents when they tried to interview hitlery? or when they assaulted one from wcj when he tried to talk to reid?? u mean sht like that? or about the democrats tapping and erasing news agents info? or how about calling sources of actual news fake news for telling the truth while democrats get caught in lies daily on almost every single liberal leaning news agency. ? i can go on and on how democrats have broke ethical and literal laws. alot of them and they get away with it. i mean sht obama slaughtered american citizens with drones and nothing. he sold out our country to iran and islam and his globalist masters. they cant even find any solid info on trump yet theres lots against the democrats and their voter frauds in messing over bernie. that was fraud right there. hitlery has broken many laws. its about time liberals get their ass's arrested too.

Anonymous

These police are also criminal for knowingly arresting people based on obviously unconstitutional basis. They must also be removed from service.

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