Journalist faces prison for covering Pipeline protest


Amy Goodman. (Aditya Ganapathiraju, CC BY-SA 2.0)


Blog post by: Patrick Pickett


Amy Goodman, a journalist for the news program Democracy Now! is facing a prison sentence following her coverage of the September 3 protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. The protests had been going on since April, and occurred in response to the pipeline carrying crude oil through sacred grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Native American tribe. Tribal leaders fear that the pipeline has the potential to rupture which could pollute the Missouri River. The river is a source of water for the tribe and millions more in the surrounding area.

According to an article from The Nation protesters attempted to block bulldozers before being confronted by private security contractors equipped with attack dogs and pepper spray (the incident can be seen in a video posted by Democracy Now!).

The video of the incident went viral through social media, and only after the fact, was covered by major news networks like CNN, and NBC. Upon the release of the video a warrant was issued for Goodman on September 8, in Morton County, North Dakota. Her charges were initially criminal trespassing (a misdemeanor), but were later upgraded to “riot.” Prosecutor Ladd Erickson changed the charges because there were “legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute,” according to an email he sent to Goodman’s lawyer. Erickson went on to say that he did not consider Goodman to be a journalist.

“She’s a protester, basically,” Erikson told the Grand Folks Herald newspaper. “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”

Some have criticized the charges against Goodman, including Carlos Lauria, senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ  (Committee to Protect Journalists).

“This arrest warrant is a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest,” Lauria said.

The charges have not been dropped, and most recently, Goodman has turned herself into the authorities in North Dakota. She reportedly will be fighting the charges.

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism