Law | Opinion

Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn: In defense of Native journalist Jenni Monet






Jenni Monet, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, in North Dakota. Photo courtesy Jenni Monet

In Defense of Standing Rock Reporter Jenni Monet—and All Journalists
If you’ve valued our Standing Rock coverage over the months, tell the Morton County State’s Attorney to drop all charges against Monet. Journalism is not a crime.
By Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn
YES! Magazine
yesmagazine.org

Dear YES! Readers:

Sometime last year, the editors at YES! realized that opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline led by the Standing Rock Sioux was a movement unfolding—unifying people from across the nation who were working toward climate justice, environmental justice, and Native sovereignty. This intersection of issues made this a story our readers wanted more of. And they wanted to help—by traveling to North Dakota to stand in solidarity, by donating money and supplies, by calling and writing banks and CEOs and sheriff’s departments.

YES! readers mobilized.

They also donated to YES! to help fund the kind of coverage we wanted, stories not just of what was happening but what it meant—and what it still means—to the people leading that movement. We wanted our coverage to be led by Native American voices, from the reporting on the ground to the commentary and analysis we published.

Now, I’m asking YES! readers to mobilize again.

One of our most consistent voices from Standing Rock has been reporter Jenni Monet, who wrote our first article from Standing Rock. Over the months, she traveled to North Dakota from her home in Tucson, Arizona, for quick reporting trips wedged between her days teaching journalism at Pima Community College. Since December, she’s been embedded in North Dakota, to follow the Standing Rock story even after the large media operations lost interest.

Last week, when some protesters decided to stand their ground high on a hill, she put herself there to witness it. But she said she was not linking arms with them. She had a notepad and pen in hand and our press credentials at the ready. But when the protestors were arrested, she found herself arrested along with them and the next day charged with criminal trespassing and rioting.

This is not the first time a reporter has been charged with a crime while covering Standing Rock. When “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman was arrested in the same manner last fall, she spent her time in jail knowing she had the backing of her show, its lawyers, and millions of viewers. It was a national event on the evening news. When Jenni Monet was arrested last week, she had only a handful of small but grateful independent media outlets, like us, making late-night phone calls to the jail on her behalf.

So here’s my request. If you’ve valued our Standing Rock coverage over the months, please call the Morton County State’s Attorney and the North Dakota Attorney General and let them know: Journalism is not a crime. Covering nonviolent direct action is not participating in a riot.
Allen Koppy
Morton County State’s Attorney
210 2nd Ave. NW
Mandan, ND 58554
Email: Allen.Koppy@mortonnd.org
Phone: 701-667-3350

Wayne Stenehjem
Attorney General
600 E Boulevard Ave., Department 125
Bismarck, ND 58505
Email: ndag@nd.gov
Phone: 701-328-2210

Here’s a sample letter:
To Morton County State’s Attorney and the State of North Dakota:

Please honor the First Amendment and the vital role that independent journalism plays in our democracy by dropping charges against reporter Jenni Monet.

I would like to object to her arrest and all charges against her in the strongest possible terms. Clearly Monet was engaged in covering the important events of Standing Rock at the request of many independent news outlets and was not criminally trespassing or rioting.

Sincerely,

Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn

Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Tracy is the editorial director at YES!

Note: This article is published via a Creative Commons license.