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94 Years in Prison for Reporting Federal Abuse? More Fall Out From Standoff in Burns, Oregon

A flurry of dramatic property and civil rights-related trials is taking place across the western U.S. in federal courts, in which defendants, including independent media representatives, are charged with up to 17 crimes each, from trespass to terrorism. . .

The initial trial for seven of the Oregon protestors took place in the fall of 2016, and ended with a surprising “not guilty” verdict for all defendants – including ringleaders Ryan and Ammon Bundy. At the time, the Obama administration admitted that federal officials were “rattled by the Oregon verdict.” Federal prosecutors have since added new charges for some defendants, which will not be eligible for jury trials. . .

Among the 32 defendants are a disturbing number of writers, bloggers and video teams. And although journalism certainly isn’t cited as a crime, many charges appear to hinge on the motivation, speech and political beliefs of the “journalist” defendants. [They face up to 94 years in prison under the 1996 Anti-terrorism Act] Dozens who gathered at either place were informed they were considered “unindicted co-conspirators.”


Comparing media members who face charges with those who are not, the major difference appears to hinge on expressions of support for the “occupation’s” organizers or their causes . . .

Possibly a quarter of the protestors at Burns considered themselves de facto broadcasters at some point of the occupation. Prosecution challenged some defendants who claimed media status, asking for press credentials or credits. Yet alternative and social media are almost impossible to categorize this way. This arguably dilutes the immunity the press enjoys under the First Amendment, but is part of a larger issue now playing out as technology, the Internet and especially social media revolutionize the traditional meaning of “news” and “journalist.” (Read more from “94 Years in Prison for Reporting Federal Abuse? More Fall out From Standoff in Burns, Oregon” HERE)

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