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PRESS RELEASE: SPLC, Holland & Knight Offer Journalist Helpline for Students Arrested Covering “Occupy”

December 8, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Frank D. LoMonte, executive director
703.807.1904 / director@splc.org

The Student Press Law Center and the leading media-law firm Holland & Knight LLP are offering student journalists free legal assistance around-the-clock if they are jailed while covering “Occupy” demonstrations.

At least four college journalists have been arrested at the scene of “Occupy” demonstrations while trying to cover news: two in Atlanta, one in Nashville and one in Rochester, N.Y. In Atlanta, college journalists from Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University spent a night in jail after being caught up in a roundup as Atlanta Police Department officers attempted to clear a downtown street.

Student journalists with an emergency at the scene of an “Occupy” protest should call the Center’s hotline – 703-807-1904, extension 121 – anytime. SPLC attorneys will refer emergency calls to Holland & Knight volunteer attorneys who are on-call in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. The volunteers will work to help students who are incarcerated while covering the news.

“In the chaos of a demonstration, there are so often misunderstandings and miscommunications between journalists and police that we feel it’s important to let students know they aren’t alone,” said attorney Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “’Occupy’ is a national story of special importance to young people, and young journalists are being heavily relied on to bring the news to the public, sometimes putting themselves in harm’s way. We hope no one ever has to use this service, but we think it will be reassuring for students to know it’s there.”

“Holland and Knight is one of the premiere law firms in the world, and students are extremely fortunate to have legal assistance of the highest caliber at their disposal, free of charge, to make sure that their rights are protected,” LoMonte said. He emphasized that the hotline is meant to serve those gathering and reporting news, and is not a legal service for those participating in demonstrations.

Holland & Knight is a global law firm with 1,000 lawyers covering 150 practice areas in 20 offices around the world. The firm is nationally known as a leader in media and First Amendment law, a practice led by Washington, D.C., partner Charles D. Tobin, who is chairman of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law. The firm is widely recognized for its commitment to community and pro-bono service.

“We are pleased to help the SPLC further the ability of student journalists to exercise their First Amendment rights to gather the news,” Tobin said.

The SPLC thanks the following Holland & Knight lawyers who have agreed to stand ready to help jailed student journalists in their regions: Elizabeth Bevington, David Borucke, Tim Conner, Shelley Hurwitz, Adolfo Jimenez, Gordon Katz, Robert Labate, Judy Mercier and Drew Shenkman.

Along with announcing the legal helpline, the SPLC is distributing a “tip sheet” for journalists covering “Occupy” protests or similar demonstrations, to help minimize their risk of conflict with police. The tip sheet is available at www.splc.org/protests.

Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has served as the nation’s only nonprofit legal assistance service dedicated to the needs of student journalists and the educators who work with them. More information about the work of the Student Press Law Center is available on its website at www.splc.org.

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© 2011 Student Press Law Center

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