CTV president Wendy Freeman said Tom Walters’ arrest and detainment in Ferguson, Missouri, was unwarranted and an infringement on freedom of the press. 

 By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

CTV said the arrest of correspondent Tom Walters in Ferguson, Mo., was unwarranted and an infringement on freedom of the press.

The channel’s president, Wendy Freeman, said Walters was detained for more than eight hours for “no other reason than simply doing his job as a reporter” and that his arrest was a “gross violation of the First Amendment protections in the United States and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Walters was one of at least 13 journalists arrested in Ferguson. He was detained on Aug. 19 after trying to ask a question of Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol and his arrest was captured on video by a CTV News cameraman. He was released the next morning without being charged.

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“We believe this was an attempt to muzzle the press from lawfully conducting their journalistic responsibilities,” Freeman said in a letter sent to the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments as well as the Missouri Highway Patrol. “We firmly believe the resulting actions taken against Mr. Walters by Ferguson law enforcement are a disturbing assault on freedom of the press, and were clearly intended to have a chilling effect on the media’s ability to cover an important story.”

After his release, Walters wrote about the experience.

“Reporters are not supposed to be part of the news they cover. And given any choice in the matter, I wouldn’t be,” he said. “Now, when a town fears brutality by law enforcement, and police suddenly want to do their work unseen by media observers, it’s not just a fair question but a necessary one to ask why.”

Walters was in the process of asking why the media were being moved away when he was forced to the ground by several police officers and handcuffed.

“When police brutality is at issue, attempts to obstruct journalists from reporting on interactions between protesters and officers are extremely disconcerting,” the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression added in a letter to the U.S. ambassador to Canada.  

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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.