The Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) and The Media Consortium (TMC) express their deep concern over the arrest of Dan Heyman, a journalist working for TMC member Public News Service in West Virginia on Tuesday, May 9. Both organizations pledge to continue to support Mr. Heyman and all journalists who are forced to overcome increasingly numerous and stringent hurdles in their efforts to report on matters of public concern.
“As far as we can tell, Dan Heyman was doing nothing more than his job. He was seeking important information about an issue that greatly affects the residents of West Virginia from two federal officials who are well-positioned to answer his questions but rarely in the state,” said Jason Zaragoza, the Executive Director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. “There seems to be no support for the assertions made in the charging documents that Mr. Heyman was ‘aggressively breaching’ secret service agents or doing anything more that pointedly asking questions in pursuit of a story.”
Indeed, the claims that Mr. Heyman committed the “willful disruption of government processes” are entirely undercut by the Criminal Complaint itself which clearly notes that Mr. Heyman was in a public area of a government building and is both vague and inconsistent as the manner of Mr. Heyman’s alleged aggression. AAN and TMC fear this is nothing more than attempt to bully a reporter from a smaller publication as a means of isolating him and delegitimizing his work. We will not let that stand.
“The role of journalism in democracy is precisely to hold those in power to account. We need more reporters like Dan Heyman,” said Media Consortium Executive Director Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, “and we need more outlets like the Public News Service. Dan was on the scene because Public News Service has a network of reporters in 37 states, connecting local reporting to national issues.”
The Association of Alternative Newsmedia and The Media Consortium encourage members of both organizations to take advantage the AAN Legal Hotline. Members of each organization can consult with AAN Legal Counsel Kevin M. Goldberg, as Heyman’s editor at Public News Service Lark Corbeil did when she first learned of Mr. Heyman’s arrest, which started the path to the engagement of local counsel on Mr. Heyman’s behalf.