The First Amendment Is Easily Understood – And UNM’s Arrest of Journalists is Plainly Inexcusable

May 17, 2024 Editor

First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The actions of the University of New Mexico that resulted in the arrest of two journalists attempting to report on the removal of protesters is shameful.

The University Board of Regents and President Garnett Stokes need to fix this transgression immediately.

It is farcical that reporters, investigating and attempting to report what might be a violation of the First Amendment rights of students and others, namely the right of peaceable assembly and to petition their government, would also have their First Amendment rights trampled by a government agency.

The New Mexico Foundation For Open Government is spot on, writing:

Freedom of the press is one of the hallmarks of American democracy and enshrined as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment – freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of petition, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

“This is not just an opinion; it is the law.

“The Constitution recognizes the right (and duty) of the press to report all news.

“Arresting journalists for reporting the news is blatantly unconstitutional
The UNM Police Department should drop the charges immediately.

“The officers involved either knew the arrests were unconstitutional and proceeded anyway or
do not realize their actions are completely indefensible under the First Amendment.

“Our democracy hangs by a thread. It requires constant vigilance, well-informed citizens and a robust press.

“It is particularly important for FOG, reporters, good government officials, media outlets and private citizens to unite and support reporters who become the target of such odious practices. This solidarity is necessary because another reporter may become the next target – a detriment to us all.”