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OPB reporter - and arguably free press rights - to stand trial in Medford

In a still from a video posted by Twitter user @mtd2025, then JPR reporter April Ehrlich is led away by Medford Police on Sept. 22, 2020 after she tried to get closer to a homeless camp evacuation in defiance of officers' orders for reporters to stay in a designated area further from the site.

In September, OPB reporter April Ehrlich faces trial for charges tied to her coverage of Medford police breaking up a homeless encampment in 2020.

Ehrlich was with Jefferson Public Radio at the time, covering the evacuation of 100 people from downtown Medford. Police told journalists to stay in a designated space, but Ehrlich refused, wanting to get closer to the action for more accurate reporting.

Ehrlich was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and trespassing. University of Oregon journalism professor Damian Radcliffe says this raises concerns.

“Regardless of the specifics here, journalists do have the right to access, to be able to report,” he told KLCC. “And there are legitimate concerns that we very much saw come to the fore in 2020, and I think still remain very pertinent, about issues of access and also of public officials trying to potentially control the narrative .”

Ehrlich faces up to a year in jail and a fine of $6,200. Organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists are supporting her Free Press rights.

Radcliffe said this case has drawn international attention, as the U.S. is seen as exemplifying a free press.

“How these types of cases manifest themselves here in the U.S. can encourage similar behaviors, many of which are encroachments on media freedom and are restricting the access of journalists,” said Radcliffe.

“Some of those behaviors then become more common in other countries around the world, so that’s also a very legitimate source of concern. The impact of this resonates far beyond just Medford, and the Pacific Northwest.”

Ehrlich’s arrest came during a year of social unrest, clashes between police and activists, and President Trump’s repeated labeling of journalists as the “enemy of the people.”

The trial is scheduled for Sept. 16 and 19 in Medford Municipal Court.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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