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Pittsburgh newspaper accused of censorship, barring black reporters from covering protests

Pittsburgh newspaper accused of censorship, barring black reporters from covering protests
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A Pittsburgh newspaper is facing widespread criticism from reporters after its editors were accused of preventing two black reporters from covering protests over the death of George Floyd and barring further coverage of the demonstrations after they pushed back.

Reporter Alexis Johnson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said in a statement that she was removed from the day's protest coverage last Monday after editors took issue with a tweet she posted comparing damage caused by some demonstrators to widespread vandalism and littering caused by concert attendees.

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Johnson said in a statement released by the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild, a union representing local journalists, that editors informed her that she would be removed from coverage of the protests due to a perceived bias. Michael Santiago, a black photojournalist at the newspaper, told the News Times that he had been barred from coverage as well.

Protests have rocked the city and others across the U.S. for days following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. Video of his arrest showed an officer placing his neck on the handcuffed, unarmed man for several minutes.

"On Sunday, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh member Alexis Johnson posted a benign tweet deemed so controversial and biased by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette management that it barred her the next day from all protest-related coverage. The logic was absurd and specious. The move stifled one of the few black reporters at the paper," according to the Guild statement.

"Similarly, one of our photographers of color who tweeted support for Alexis has been barred from covering protests. This is after risking his personal safety and being gassed by police in order to bring PG readers news about what was happening in their city," it continued.

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Since the incident, the paper's editors have gone further, announcing that all coverage of the protests would end, according to Johnson.

Editors at the Post-Gazette did not immediately return requests for comment.

"As if it wasn’t bad enough to kill stories and restrict journalists who expressed solidarity with a union colleague under siege, management told several Guild members that protests would no longer be covered, period. And protest-related stories scheduled for Saturday were killed without explanation," she said.

In a short statement, the guild called on the Post-Gazette's editors to reinstate the two reporters on the protest beat and resume coverage of the demonstrations.

"Rescind your ban and allow these black journalists to cover the most monumental civil rights movement in more than 50 years," the guild said. "Stop retaliating against their supporters. Fulfill your mission by adequately and ethically covering the protests and related issues."