Federal Communications Commission officials said they apologized to a journalist today after the reporter accused FCC guards of “manhandling” him for trying to ask questions after a press conference ended.
CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly, who is chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Team and president of the Military Reporters & Editors Association, “said he ran afoul of plainclothes security personnel at the FCC when he tried to ask commissioners questions when they were not in front of the podium at a scheduled press conference,” the National Press Club reported.
“When Donnelly strolled in an unthreatening way toward FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to pose a question, two guards pinned Donnelly against the wall with the backs of their bodies until O’Rielly had passed,” the report said. “O’Rielly witnessed this and continued walking.”
The Press Club report was titled, “Reporter manhandled by FCC guards because he asked question.”
On Twitter, Donnelly said he was forced out of the building after trying to talk to O’Rielly and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai:
— John M. Donnelly (@johnmdonnelly) May 18, 2017
FCC apologizes to reporter
When contacted by Ars today, an FCC spokesperson said, “We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats. I don’t have any further comment.”
The FCC did not specify the nature of the threats. The guards were reportedly aware that Donnelly was a journalist. “One of the guards, Frederick Bucher, asked Donnelly why he had not posed his question during the press conference,” the National Press Club wrote. “Then Bucher proceeded to force Donnelly to leave the building entirely under implied threat of force.”
Donnelly also alleged that the security guards shadowed him as if he were a security threat and waited for him outside the bathroom, “even though he continuously displayed his congressional press pass and held a tape recorder and notepad.”
The FCC today voted in favor of a proposal to reverse the classification of ISPs as common carriers and eliminate or replace the current net neutrality rules. The FCC plans to take public comments for three months before issuing a final decision. Pai held a press conference after the vote.
“Donnelly was doing his job and doing it with his characteristic civility,” National Press Club President Jeff Ballou said. “Reporters can ask questions in any area of a public building that is not marked off as restricted to them. Officials who are fielding the questions don’t have to answer. But it is completely unacceptable to physically restrain a reporter who has done nothing wrong or force him or her to leave a public building as if a crime had been committed.”
The FCC also apologized to Bloomberg News reporter Todd Shields last July when Bucher took the reporter’s press badge while he was talking to a protestor, according to the National Press Club report.
More Info: arstechnica.com