Editorial: We Support Student Journalists

Stop attacking the media. All journalists deserve respect


Pablo Unzueta, left, and Julianna Lacoste, middle, stand handcuffed outside the booking station after their arrest while covering a demonstration Sept. 8. Credit: Julianna Lacoste

Student journalists are legitimate members of the press and should be respected as such, regardless of age, gender or experience.
In journalism, students are thrust into the harsh realities of the real world to work in one of the most important careers today, despite some members of the public and law enforcement working to not only discredit them, but harass and brutalize them.
This just happened to a valued former member of our staff, Pablo Unzueta.
Pablo, a recent Mt. SAC journalism transfer student and former valued and award-winning photojournalist for SAC.Media and Substance Magazine, and a current student at Cal State University Long Beach and member of the staff at The Daily 49er, was unlawfully arrested and charged for unlawful assembly by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. Pablo was  covering and photographing a protest against the killing of Dijon Kizzee held on Tuesday, Sept. 8 in South LA. According to the The Daily 49r, members of the press were abused on Sept. 8, when Los Angeles Sheriffs announced the protest which they were covering as unlawful and began to advance. Pablo, along with other journalists, were retreating when they were arrested, and were detained by officers despite holding valid press passes and announcing themselves as press. Members of the press are typically not arrested for unlawful assembly, and there is a bill awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature which would hold accredited press exempt from unlawful assembly arrests.
After the Editor in Chief of the Daily 49r posted a letter in support of Unzueta, commenters took to the Daily 49r’s social media.
Instagram user @usajurski20 posted that they “wouldn’t allow a medical student to operate on them.” This comment is not only a blatant disrespect to student press who are working to educate the public on what is occurring at protests and other events amid the global pandemic, but it is also a sign of a misunderstanding and misinformation of the public on what members of medical staff and the press go through on the educational context of their careers.
Medical students DO operate on patients as part of the learning process just as student journalists learn by practice while covering live news events as they happen.
Journalists and reporters nationwide are placing themselves into dangerous situations which can threaten their lives and well-beings while covering protests in response to the killings of people of color. Student journalists are legitimate working members of the press and should be treated as such. Student journalists who were once regarded as valuable, are continuously disrespected. While professional press hired by media conglomerates like the Los Angeles Times and NPR have the support of their news organizations, student press simply do not have access to these resources and funds and are often left to fend for themselves when faced with legal obstacles such as being arrested while doing their jobs. Colleges often leave their students high and dry, leaving the students without support from the college and faculty, and often without their cell phones and equipment.
In Pablo’s case, he was assaulted, shoved in a van with his face pushed into pepper balls, handcuffed and jailed for hours, and left without his cell phone, camera gear, and belongings.
For students, losing valuable equipment that took years to purchase is devastating. Pablo, after appearing in court, was told there is no record of his equipment. This is after Pablo watched the sheriffs throw and kick his equipment into the back of a police vehicle. Pablo has yet to get any of his belongings back.
And it’s not just Pablo who was arrested and harassed. Julianna Marie Lacoste, a reporter who was with Pablo and a member of National Press Photographers Association was brutalized and arrested by sheriffs. She had a press pass.
According to a tweet posted by Twitter user @chadloder, “Los Angeles Sheriffs fired indiscriminately into a crowd of people who were already dispersing.”
Lacoste was shot in the hand, back and neck before being tackled and violently arrested by sheriffs.


Student journalists like myself and my staff are thankful for organizations such as the Student Press Law Center, who are one of the few to offer support in times like these.
According to the Student Press Law Center, “Journalists have the right — and duty — to report on protests and other public events. They have specialized protections to allow them to do their jobs and those rights were clearly violated by police,” as pertains to an incident in which Ohio State University’s contributors for, “The Lantern were pepper sprayed in July, 2020 by Ohio police despite identifying themselves as press, which are exempt by curfew.”

SAC.Media strongly supports student journalists like Pablo and all student press as members of the free press. It is not only unethical for active members of law enforcement to assault members of the press, but it is un-American as well. SAC.Media is made up of members of the student body of Mt. SAC, and will always defend the rights of patriotic citizens of the United States of America utilizing their constitutional rights to speak out against and report violations against such rights.

-Abraham Navarro on behalf of the SAC.Media Editorial Board