The Authors Guild strongly condemns the arrest and detention of internationally renowned journalist and Authors Guild member Alan Weisman last month while he was covering protests against construction of an oil pipeline through Native American reservation land in northern Minnesota. In a letter of support for Mr. Weisman, the Authors Guild called his arrest and mistreatment “a blow at the heart of the First Amendment,” and a “misuse of legal authority that has no place in a democratic society.”
Mr. Weisman is a prize-winning author of six books, including Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? and The World Without Us, as well as a veteran reporter who has written for Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Orion, Audubon, Mother Jones, Discover, Condé Nast Traveler, and elsewhere. At the time of his arrest, he was wearing two press lanyards—including an International Federation of Journalists press pass provided by the Authors Guild—and was standing in an area with other journalists. Without giving him a reason for his arrest, a law enforcement officer drove Mr. Weisman to the sheriff’s office where he was subjected to unreasonably harsh treatment. He was denied his request for (and right to) a phone call; his cellphone, notebooks, voice recorder, and prescription medications were confiscated; he was subjected to a violating strip-search; and he was locked in solitary confinement for roughly three hours. Following his release, he was charged with a gross misdemeanor for trespassing despite the fact that Mr. Weisman was in compliance with law enforcement commands, wearing press credentials, and following a rapidly changing situation.
While Mr. Weisman’s counsel, armed with support from the Authors Guild and other journalist and free speech organizations, has successfully gotten these charges dismissed, they can be reinstated again. Mr. Weisman and his counsel are looking into possibly bringing a civil rights violation claim against the law enforcement officials involved, and the Authors Guild is standing by to lend whatever support it can to vindicate the rights of Mr. Weisman and all journalists against the heavy-handed law enforcement tactics that impede reporting on issues vital to the public interest.
You can read the full Authors Guild letter below.