Protestors at the University of Missouri have recently drawn criticism regarding the rights journalists maintain as afforded by the First Amendment; however, this media attention has provided the public with a diversion from a tense atmosphere and allegations of rampant racism on the Missouri campus that originally drew the protests.
The series of racial issues, including swastikas being drawn in feces, led to hunger strikes, protests and the football team’s threat to boycott their next game, according to U.S. News.
A viral video of Tim Tai, a student photographer, being prevented from taking pictures has drawn the attention of the nation. The photojournalist was a student at Mizzou, and was attempting to get pictures of an event occurring on public grounds. As a photojournalist, he was well within his rights and attempted to explain this to the protestors several times.
We truly appreciate having our story told, but this movement isn't for you.— ConcernedStudent1950 (@CS_1950) November 9, 2015
It is vital to remember that the First Amendment not only protects the protestors, but also journalists right to report events that are happening. “ConcernedStudent1950” tweeted “We truly appreciate having our story told, but this movement isn’t for you” according to Fortune magazine. While the protestors at Mizzou have a right to assembly, and that right is to be respected by all, the same goes for the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, which must be respected equally.
While we empathize with the need for privacy of the protestors, reporting allows the rest of the nation to see and understand these protests. The UConn community is standing with the students of Mizzou, as seen by campus events such as the “Speak Out” event where students and faculty gathered on the seal in Fairfield Way to demonstrate support. However, the power and necessity of such activism cannot violate the fundamental rights guaranteed to the press.
While Tai’s composure and behavior fall within a responsible use of his first amendment rights as a photojournalist, the event cannot be used to discredit the entire movement. The press and media should remember that the protest held far more students and faculty than those in the video who were preventing Tai from taking documentation.
By portraying this handful of individuals as representatives for an entire movement, the media is working against the students and faculty of Mizzou by detracting the attention from the heinous actions that led to the protest in the first place.
A journalism professor instigated this unfortunate interaction by asking for “some muscle” to block out Tai’s view, violating the fundamental principles of the subject to which she dedicated her life. Tai’s right to photograph the protestors was not malevolent, and the rights of journalists should not, as with the rights of protestors, be violated by anyone. However, these individuals cannot be taken as a measure for the entire movement, for the issues raised at Mizzou and at other college campuses across the U.S. are real and pressing and must be addressed.