IOWA CITY, Iowa — A journalist went on trial Monday on charges stemming from her coverage of a protest against racial injustice in Des Moines last year, after Iowa prosecutors defied international pressure to drop a rare effort to punish a working reporter.
Des Moines Register news reporter Andrea Sahouri, who was pepper-sprayed and jailed while reporting on a clash between protesters and police in May, is charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts.
If convicted on the simple misdemeanor charges, the 25-year-old Sahouri would be fined hundreds of dollars and have a criminal record. A judge could also sentence her up to 30 days in jail on each count, although that would be unusual.
Advocates for journalism and human rights in the U.S. and abroad have pressed Iowa authorities to drop the charges, arguing that Sahouri was simply doing her job by documenting the event. But prosecutors in the office of Polk County Attorney John Sarcone have pressed forward with the case against Sahouri and her former boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, who faces the same charges.
The pair are standing trial in a courtroom at Drake University in Des Moines as part of a program for law students. The university is broadcasting the proceedings, which are expected to last two days. Lawyers selected a six-member jury Monday morning, and prosecutors were expected to begin their case in the afternoon.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has not recorded any other trials of…