Reporter not the guilty party

Amy Goodman’s coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline is a public service, not a crime.

On Sept. 3, Democracy Now! released video of security guards hired by builders of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline attacking Native American water protectors—men, women and children—with pepper spray and dogs. The video, narrated by host Amy Goodman, went viral and was rebroadcast by several major networks.

Over the Labor Day weekend, in pursuit of the story, Goodman and her camera crew had followed, filmed and interviewed the protesters who’d entered privately owned land to stop bulldozers from razing sacred burial grounds. For Goodman’s diligence as a reporter, authorities in Morton County, N.D., issued a warrant for her arrest on criminal trespassing charges.

“This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press. I was doing my job by covering pipeline guards unleashing dogs and pepper spray on Native American protesters,” Goodman said in a statement.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Before Goodman’s report, mainstream media had largely ignored Standing Rock Reservation’s protests against the pipeline. With representatives from more than 100 tribes joining the Sioux in recent months, the demonstration is the largest gathering of Native Americans in a century (see “Mni wiconi: Water is life,” page 16).

Thanks to Goodman and Democracy Now!, the issue is one of the nation’s top news stories. Moreover, federal authorities have since stepped in to halt the project pending further scrutiny.

And what a story it is, touching as it does on environmental, cultural, historical and legal issues, as well as questions of corporate greed versus public good. It remains in the best interest of those building the 1,172-mile interstate pipeline—which has the potential to affect millions of Americans, Native and otherwise—that the whole story not be told. Calling for a journalist’s arrest for doing her job is a flagrant attempt to suppress the ugly facts and intimidate others from reporting them.

Luckily, there are measures in place to protect journalists, not the least of which is the First Amendment. There are real crimes, against people and against nature, happening in North Dakota today, and they’re not being perpetrated by Goodman.