People enter the Federal Communications Commission building December 11, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The commission held its monthly meeting as activists held a rally outside to call for net neutrality.
People enter the Federal Communications Commission building December 11, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The commission held its monthly meeting as activists held a rally outside to call for net neutrality. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Journalist Says FCC Security 'Manhandled' Him After Asking Questions

May 18, 2017

Security guards “manhandled” an award-winning journalist after he asked Federal Communications Commission officials questions at a public hearing on Thursday, according to a statement from the National Press Club.

John Donnelly, a reporter for CQ Roll Call, was thrown out of the scheduled press conference after he tried to ask commissioners questions when they were not behind the podium, the statement said.

Donnelly, who is the chair of the National Press Club's Press Freedom Team, said two security guards pinned him against the wall with their backs while FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly walked past. They then forced him to leave the building.

“I could not have been less threatening or more polite,” Donnelly said in the National Press Club release. “There is no justification for using force in such a situation.”

Thursday’s open meeting was closely watched as the FCC voted on the hot-button issue of net neutrality. NPC President Jeff Ballou condemned the security guards' actions.

“Donnelly was doing his job and doing it with his characteristic civility,” Ballou said in his organization’s statement. “Reporters can ask questions in any area of a public building that is not marked off as restricted to them. Officials who are fielding the questions don't have to answer. But it is completely unacceptable to physically restrain a reporter who has done nothing wrong or force him or her to leave a public building as if a crime had been committed.”

An FCC spokesman told NPR journalist David Folkenflik that they had apologized to Donnelly and said the agency “was on heightened alert today based on several threats.”

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