Should media covering the political conventions be able to protect themselves with gas masks? Some news organizations think they should, in case violence breaks out and police use tear gas, for example.
Twenty-three news organizations, including the Radio Television Digital News Association, NPR, Cable News Network, Fox, Gannett, and Tegna, have asked the Cleveland police and the mayor to allow the press to have gas masks and wear them at the Republican National Convention, which begins today. Right now, members of the press cannot wear the masks under Cleveland’s event zone permit regulations.
“We propose that, rather than changing the permit regulations or formally writing a new policy, the city and its police department leaders simply instruct line officers that credentialed journalists should not be stopped for possessing gas masks and the journalists’ masks should not be confiscated,” they write in a letter to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and City Police Chief Calvin Williams. “Philadelphia police, for example, have said that they will not restrict the use of gas masks during the Democratic National Convention, and do not intend to use tear gas.”
The issue is important because if police use tear gas to control a crowd, that’s a news event and journalists who are not interfering with police operations should be able to protect themselves, and not forced to cover the event without masks, according to the media groups.
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued advice to reporters and photojournalists covering both conventions, cautioning that unrest not seen since Chicago 1968 is possible.