At least eight defendants charged for participating in the riots – which took place on 6th January – have said that because they took videos and livestreamed the event, they could be considered journalists.
Shawn Witzemann, who was arrested for his involvement on 6th April told news organisation Kob: “I seek truth. I speak to sources. I document. I provide commentary. It’s everything that a journalist is.”
But Lucy Daglish, a former media lawyer and dean of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism told AP that this was not tantamount to journalism.
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She said: “You are, at that point, an activist with a cellphone, and there were a lot of activists with copyrighted videos who sold them to news organisations. That doesn’t make them journalists.”
Jane Kirtley, who teaches media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota added that journalists are not immune from prosecution if they break the law while working.
“It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” she said.
On 6 Jan the US Capitol in Washington was stormed by supporters of Donald Trump wishing to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. More than 140 people were injured in the storming and five died.
At the time, Trump was accused of encouraging the rioters by posting tweets about electoral fraud and calling those at the Capitol “patriots”. He was later permanently banned from Twitter for “inciting violence”.
On Saturday, a member of the far-right group Oath Keepers, Jon Ryan Schaffer, was the first to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrection. He had been accused of spraying police officers with bear spray.
Meanwhile, a further 370 people are facing charges connected to the event.