By Doug Gritzmacher
Creative Director, Z-Channel Films, Denver, Colorado Google+
The Huffington Post is reporting that documentary filmmaker Deia Scholsberg was arrested in North Dakota while filming protests against tar sands oil pipelines. She has been charged with three felony charges, including conspiracy to commit theft of property. Her footage and documentary film gear was confiscated. She faces up to 45 years in prison.
As documentary filmmakers ourselves and well, as citizens of the United States, this comes as a shock and we are outraged at the treatment of Scholsberg. Schlosberg was acting and operating as a journalist, not a participant. This is a violation of her rights, the freedom of the press, and the first amendment.
According to Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film “Gasland” the director of the film for which Schlosberg was filming for, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change,” Schlosberg was arrested when she was filming activists shutting off tar sands pipelines. Ostensibly, authorities assumed Schlosberg was in on the act for purposes of filming it. Since when did this become a rational assumption of journalists doing their jobs and exercising the rights of the freedom of the press as a documentary filmmaker?
Adding to the outrageousness is that Schlosberg has no demonstrated record of criminal activity. Quite the contrary — Schlosberg is a prior recipient of National Geographic Explorer of the Year Award.
This is not the first documentary filmmaker to be arrested and/or charged for actions related to protests agains the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman was arrested for criminal trespassing in September while filming Native Americans protesting.
Josh Fox is circulating a letter we can sign to support Scholsberg.