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VIENNA, January 25. /TASS/. The United States should guarantee that constitutional rights and international norms are respected in the case initiated against two reporters, charged over mass protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration, the media representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said.
The two reporters, Alexander Rubinstein and Evan Engel, who were on assignment for Russia’s RT channel and US broadcaster Vocativ respectively, were detained last Friday while covering the unrest in Washington surrounding Donald Trump’s inauguration. They were charged under the District of Columbia’s law against rioting and face up to ten years in prison and a fine of $25,000 if convicted. The hearings are scheduled for February. Both reporters were released following the initial court procedures.
"The media has a critical role to play in democracies by providing transparency as well as accountability of the exercise of state power," OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement.
"This public watchdog function is especially important around the time of elections and during changes of government, including at the time of inauguration. As long as it is not proved that journalists have taken a direct and active part in hostilities themselves, their activities during public demonstrations should be left unimpaired," she continued.
The official also expressed her concern that the arrest of and charges against Engel and Rubinstein come at a time when the role of the press is under pressure from the new administration. She expects this negative trend to be reversed immediately and the United States to continue to uphold its longtime reputation as a standard bearer for free speech and press freedom internationally.
She added that the rights of journalists are clearly guaranteed by First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution, as well as by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil Rights, which the United States had ratified.