4 journalists file US lawsuit against Ferguson police over battery, false arrest during riots

Ferguson police were sharply criticised for their heavy-handed actions in August during unrest triggered by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer. -- PHOTO: AFP
Ferguson police were sharply criticised for their heavy-handed actions in August during unrest triggered by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Three German reporters and an American journalist are suing the police in the Missouri town of Ferguson over their treatment during racially charged riots last year, a press watchdog confirmed on Wednesday.

Reporters Without Borders said it "fully supports" the legal action against the Ferguson Police Department by the journalists who allege battery, false arrest and unreasonable search and seizure. Ferguson police were sharply criticised for their heavy-handed actions in August during unrest triggered by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer.

"Arrests of journalists while gathering information and covering demonstrations are inadmissible in the country of the First Amendment," said Ms Delphine Halgand, director of Reporters Without Borders USA. "We urge the US authorities to not leave police abuses unpunished and to do everything possible to guarantee the safety of journalists during protests."

The four journalists are American reporter Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept and Germans Ansgar Graw (Die Welt), Frank Herrmann (Der Standard) and Lukas Hermsmeier (Bild). The four filed the suit on Monday, with two alleging the police shot at them with rubber bullets before detaining them in jail for a night.

"It may sound naive, but I never assumed the possibility of police officers shooting at journalists in a manageable situation like this," Mr Hermsmeier told The Intercept, which published the full complaint.