A decision by a Philadelphia,PA District Attorney ends a chapter regarding a shameful attack on the first amendment and press freedoms.
On Saturday, September 12, 2009, one of OpEdNews.com's managing editors, Cheryl Biren, was arrested http://pubrecord.org/nation/5154/reporter-protesters-charged-criminal/ while photographing protesters who were protesting the existence of the "Army Experience Center" in Philadelphia. Ms Biren was not a part of the protest, she was there on assignment for OpEdNews.com and not taking part in any protest activities. OpEdNews.com owner and publisher Rob Kall immediately called the police station and District Attorney's office to assert Cheryl's role as a reporter to no avail.
Cheryl was arraigned and had been fighting a legal battle to get the charges dropped for the better part of four months. Finally, yesterday, January 20, 2010, the Philadelphia DA withdrew the charges against Biren.
At no time did Cheryl Biren take part in the protest in any way. She did not pick up a sign, she did not speak or shout any slogans and she did not interfere with the police or the operation of the Army Experience Center at any time. Photographs taken by Cheryl and other reporters covering the event prove her innocence. Her arrest is a shameful and illegal infringements of her rights as a citizen and as a member of the press.
It is incumbent on the US Department of Justice to look into issues where police and local prosecutors flagrantly violate the rights of citizens and engage in press intimidation. The arrest was illegal and any police officer who ordered or participated in the arrest should be brought up on charges. The Philadelphia DA should be investigated to see if there was any legitimate reason to keep charges pending against Ms. Biren for four months or whether the arraignment of Biren and the drawing out of the prosecution of the case for four months constitutes prosecutorial misconduct. It was obvious to everyone from the beginning what the situation was here. There was no reason to keep charges hanging over Cheryl's head.
Beyond that, Ms. Biren and OpEdNews.com should bring a civil suit against the city of Philadelphia for the DA and Police conduct in this situation. America is best served by a media that does not fear harassment and/or retribution from police or government officials for covering and reporting the news.