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Columbia SC Television Reporters Detained By Housing Police

Journalists handcuffed in pursuit of public records …

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Two reporters for WLTX TV 19 (CBS – Columbia, S.C.) were detained on Tuesday by private security officers working on behalf of the Columbia Housing Authority (CHA).

Jenna Kurzyna and Susan Ardis were not transported from the scene by local law enforcement – nor were they booked at the local detention center.  In other words, they were not technically “arrested.”  They were, however, handcuffed and detained for simply doing (or attempting to do) their jobs.

According to WLTX, the two reporters “were arrested Tuesday morning by Columbia Housing Authority police while trying to access the building that houses public documents released by the (CHA) earlier this week for Allen Benedict Court apartments.”

The “arrest” occurred at around 11:00 a.m. EST.

Kurzyna and Ardis are investigating the deaths of Calvin Witherspoon, Jr. and Derrick Caldwell Roper, both of whom died of carbon monoxide poisoning at Allen Benedict Court apartments earlier this month.

The bodies of Witherspoon and Roper were discovered on January 17.  More than 400 residents of the complex have been evacuated from the complex in the aftermath of the poisoning incident.

To its credit, the CHA is telling multiple local media outlets (including WLTX) it is “sorry” this incident took place and that it “couldn’t imagine” why two individuals who identified themselves as reporters were restrained and detained.

Good … the agency should be sorry this happened.

Listen, it is one thing to deny reporters access to public documents via physical obstruction – or via creative denials of their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  That is bad enough.  However, it is something else entirely to restrain and detain members of the media against their will for simply doing their jobs.

Obviously there are multiple sides to every story (and our microphone is open to everyone involved in this fiasco), but we would be hard-pressed to imagine a situation in which a security force or law enforcement agency would conduct itself the way the CHA security officers did in this situation.

In its eleven years in the South Carolina media marketplace, this news outlet has only experienced one incident even approaching something like this – an encounter with a private security officer stationed at the entrance to aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s North Charleston, S.C. facility.

UPDATE: The CHA has issued the following statement on the incident …

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