Education Writers Association Signs Joint Statement Condemning Criminal Charges Against Austin Journalist Covering Campus Protests

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The Education Writers Association has joined a statement led by the Society of Professional Journalists demanding that the Texas Department of Public Safety end their misguided pursuit of criminal charges against Fox 7 Austin photojournalist Carlos Sanchez. He was arrested while covering protests at The University of Texas at Austin last week.

Alongside more than 40 other journalism organizations, First Amendment advocacy groups and media unions, we strongly denounce Texas law enforcement’s handling of the incident, and are proud to take a stand for the First Amendment right to a free press and the public’s right to be informed by an unfettered press. 

A joint statement from journalism organizations to Texas law enforcement authorities

As advocates for journalists and the First Amendment rights of a free press, we demand that Texas law enforcement authorities end their misguided pursuit of criminal charges against photojournalist Carlos Sanchez, who was arrested while covering protests at the University of Texas at Austin.

In leveling an unwarranted charge of assault against a journalist who was simply doing his job, Texas authorities themselves commit an assault – on the public’s First Amendment right to be informed by a free and unfettered press.

And in charging a member of the press with interfering with a police officer’s duties, they send the message that police are free to interfere with journalists as they exercise their constitutionally protected right to inform the public.

Mr. Sanchez was livestreaming the campus protest for Fox 7 Austin on April 24 when police forcefully threw him to the ground and arrested him. While he was initially among dozens of people charged with criminal trespass, those charges were dropped and he was released on April 25 after being jailed overnight.

After his initial arrest and release without any charges being filed, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued a statement claiming to believe “strongly in a journalist’s right to cover events of the day in a safe way.” Yet DPS officials undermined this statement by pursuing Mr. Sanchez’s arrest on a felony assault charge, alleging that the journalist’s camera hit a state trooper as the officer was confronting protesters.

After Mr. Sanchez turned himself in at the courthouse accompanied by his lawyer, they learned that the felony assault charge had been dropped. But authorities reversed course again and brought two misdemeanor charges, of assault and interfering with public duties.

We, organizations that collectively represent and advocate on behalf of thousands of journalists, strongly urge the county attorney to decline prosecution of these charges and denounce authorities’ handling and escalation of the underlying incident. In addition to preventing a journalist from reporting the news as it was happening, their actions exert a chilling effect on reporters covering protests and law enforcement’s response to them, both during and beyond the current wave of campus demonstrations.

While policing a sizable protest is challenging, we expect officers to exercise discretion and avoid over-reacting. People using large professional cameras and clearly identifying themselves

as journalists must not be punished or retaliated against for carrying out their constitutionally protected role of reporting the news.

If DPS officials wish to live up to their statement regarding the press, in the interest of justice they must stop pursuing this groundless case against Mr. Sanchez and apologize to him and the citizens of Texas for their unconstitutional actions.

Anything less will be an abrogation of the DPS’ stated value to “seek and accept responsibility for our conduct” and a continued abridgement of press freedoms that the First Amendment is meant to protect.


Society of Professional Journalists 

Arab & Middle Eastern Journalists Association 

Asian American Journalists Association 

Asian American Journalists Association Photo Affinity Group 

Associated Collegiate Press 

College Media Association 

Education Writers Association 

Indigenous Journalists Association 

National Association of Black Journalists 

National Association of Hispanic Journalists 

National Press Club 

National Press Club Journalism Institute 

National Press Photographers Association 

National Scholastic Press Association 

Online News Association 

PEN America 

Quill and Scroll 

Radio Television Digital News Association 

Society of Environmental Journalists 

Media Guild of the West, The NewsGuild-CWA Local 39213 

The Authors Guild 

National Writers Union 

The News Guild-CWA 

Pacific Media Workers Guild, The NewsGuild-CWA Local 39521 

California News Publishers Association 

CCNMA, Latino Journalists of California 

Los Angeles Press Club 

San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists 

The Coalition for Women in Journalism 

The Committee to Protect Journalists 

Defending Rights & Dissent 

First Amendment Clinic/SMU Dedman School of Law 

First Amendment Foundation

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) 

Freedom of the Press Foundation 

Media Alliance Bay Area 

News/Media Alliance 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 

Student Press Law Center 

Women Press Freedom 

Susan E. Seager, Adjunct Professor, University of California, Irvine School of Law Press Freedom Project (Individual)