Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Missouri Press Assn. backs student photographer who stood his ground against protesters

Screenshot via YouTube shows the confrontation.
The Missouri Press Association has declared its support for the student photographer who was pushed by a crowd of protesters on the University of Missouri campus Monday, and denounced "the role students and staff played in attempting to prevent news media from covering events at the university," MPA said in a news release.

"The actions and words captured on video of MU students and staff are disappointing to advocates of free speech and the First Amendment," said MPA President Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, one of two daily papers in the town, along with the Missouri student paper. MPA has 275 member newspapers.

"Public areas on the university campus are public for all individuals and the attempts by some to keep media from documenting the protests show a disturbing misunderstanding of how the First Amendment protects all individuals' rights and freedoms," Robertson said. "The university is a taxpayer-funded institution representing not only the students who currently attend, but alumni everywhere and residents of the state at large. Student photographer Tim Tai should be commended for not only defending his First Amendment rights to document the student and faculty protests on the MU campus, but doing so in such a manner as to avoid escalating tension."

Tai, 20, was on a freelance assignment for ESPN. When he took photos of the protesters' tent city on campus, surrounded by a ring of protesters attempting to create a "media-free zone," some of them restricting his access and pushed him away. He "reminded protesters of his First Amendment right to be present and to document the events taking place," MPA notes. "The Missouri Press Association fully supports Tai’s First Amendment stance and reminds people that access to public space, such as the grounds of a university funded by taxpayers, is available to all citizens, without prejudice."

A six-and-a-half-minute video of the confrontation, shot by Mark Schierbecker can be viewed on YouTube at

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