The Cheat Sheet

Amy Goodman and the right to know

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 16, 2018


Is this about one of those cause junkie actors?

Certainly not. Amy Goodman is an award-winning television journalist with US-based Democracy Now! whom a North Dakota judge just acquitted in a controversial case.

What’s the case?

It relates to a protest march she covered on September 3 in North Dakota. The march was held by a Native American tribe called Standing Rock Sioux. They were protesting against the $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline which, according to the activists, is posing serious challenges to their life, culture and heritage.

Goodman filed a report that showed security guards at the pipeline project using dogs and pepper sprays on protesters. Her report, which exposed the inhuman ways the agitators were dealt with, received 14 million views on Facebook alone, and the viral story prompted big media groups such as CNN and NPR to take up the issue.

Surely, the oil company wouldn’t have liked it...

Irked, they got the authorities to slap a warrant on Goodman saying she participated in a “riot”. The charges were filed on October 14 by the state’s attorney.

That’s bad!

Indeed. The allegation was rather serious and if proved, Goodman could spend months in jail. And above all, the case could cause a dent in the very idea of the freedom of the press. So, media watchers across the world were eagerly waiting for the verdict in the case. At the end of the hearing, the judge squarely rejected the prosecutors’ “riot” charges.

The authorities had charged Goodman with “criminal trespass” and said she “was not acting as a journalist”. The judge ruled that the state didn’t have a probable cause for these charges and blocked prosecutors from moving forward with the controversial prosecution.


Goodman says this is obviously a victory for the right to report. The people have the right to know what’s happening at the Dakota Access Pipeline which continues to draw crowds of protesters. Last week, actor Shailene Woodley (of The Fault In Our Stars fame) was arrested with 26 other activists for protesting And it seems the protests are only likely to continue given the magnitude of the alleged environmental problems associated with it.

Is Standing Rock Sioux the only tribe affected?

Well, the project is a 1,100 mile fracked-shale oil pipeline. It is expected to run from the Bakken shale-fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois. It is slated to cross Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation where it would be laid underneath the Missouri river, which is the longest river on the continent. Activists say the project will affect many indigenous communities and wipe out flora and fauna. It could also endanger fresh water for some 8 million people.

Who really owns the project?

That’s a complex question. According to reports, the gigantic, serpentine infrastructure project is funded by a “complex network” of energy companies, banks and other institutions.

No wonder Goodman was threatened.

Yeah, and that’s why a victory in her case is seen as a victory for all journalists fighting against such vested interests across the globe. Mind you, several journalists are facing similar cases in other parts of the world, including Brazil, Sudan, Russia and India.


You heard me. Free-speech activists say India is fast becoming unsafe territory for objective journalists. In 2015 alone, journalists here faced eight deaths, 30 attacks, 48 cases of defamation and 14 cases of sedition.

And in this scenario rulings such as the one in Goodman’s case come as a real morale-booster to journalists.

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Published on October 19, 2016

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