Journalist Cantú Still Charged for Inauguration Day Coverage

Where is Aaron Cantú? Still facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Cantú, a Tufts University-educated investigative journalist, has upwards of five years of professional experience and work published on the pages of Salon, Vice and The Guardian.

Cantú was also one of six journalists to be charged with felony rioting during the mass Inauguration Day arrests in the District of Columbia.

The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department “respects and protects the rights of journalists to have access and the ability to report on events of local, as well as national, importance,” said spokesman Dustin Sternbeck in a statement. “MPD members are directed to attempt to identify journalists and to not arrest them.”

Despite MPD efforts, the members of the press were arraigned and given court dates for February and March according to The Guardian. However, the U.S. Attorneys’ Office of the District of Columbia then dropped the charges for one Evan Engel, a reporter with Vocativ. Three others were released soon after – but not Cantú.

Shay Horse was the last of the now-free journalists to have his charges dropped. This occurred over one month after the initial arrest, according to D.C. Media Group. Horse is a photojournalist and documented his protest and detainment experience via his Twitter account: @HuntedHorse.

Engel and other journalists continue to stand in solidarity with Cantú and other detained and charged journalists on social media.

In addition, The Reporter Committee of the Freedom of the Press Foundation continues to push for the dropping of Cantú’s charges. The RCFP is a non-profit organization that advocates for journalists and provides them with free legal resources all in the name of the First Amendment.

A letter from the executive director of the RCFP, Bruce Brown, the program director of the the Committee to Protect Journalists, Carlos Lauria, and the North America Director of Reporters Without Borders, Delphine Halgand, was released by the RCFP. The letter asked that U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips drop the pending charges against Cantú, as reporting violence is not analogous to participating in it.

“Being near a newsworthy event is no crime for anyone, reporters included,” said the letter. “Journalists routinely run toward the center of any action, so they can better serve the public by reporting an event they personally witnessed, rather than something recounted by bystanders.”

Jack Shafer, media columnist at Politico Magazine, tweeted the letter in solidarity with the Cantú’s cause. Despite having over 60,000 followers on Twitter and an active presence, the Cantú tweet only received 10 retweets and 9 likes.

As of March 5, Aaron Cantú is still facing charges, and has not had an article published about his predicament since February 4.

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