U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter arrested, held overnight while covering NYC pro-Palestinian protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 31, 2023
New York, New York

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
New York City Police Department
Detention Date
Release Date
Unnecessary use of force?
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Dec. 28, 2023, one in a series of such protests in New York City during the holiday season. Freelance reporter Roni Jacobson was arrested during a similar protest on Dec. 31.

— REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
December 31, 2023

Freelance reporter Roni Jacobson was arrested by police while documenting a pro-Palestinian protest in New York City on Dec. 31, 2023. She was held overnight and released the following afternoon after the Manhattan district attorney’s office dropped the charges.

Jacobson told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was on assignment for the New York Daily News to cover a protest near Times Square and attempted to pass by a police barricade shortly before 7 p.m. to reach the demonstration. Police allowed other pedestrians to pass, but asked Jacobson to provide identification.

According to the Daily News, Jacobson identified herself to the New York Police Department officers as a reporter but told them that her request for city-issued press credentials was still pending. The police said she couldn’t pass without a credential and ordered her to back up, Jacobson said, but as she did so another officer arrested her.

“I was taking a step back and to the side to be fully out of the way. In fact, I was a moment away from just leaving and going to find another way around because I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with these guys,” Jacobson said. “As I was stepping back I bumped into the rookie cop who was behind me and then he had the cuffs on me.”

The Daily News reported that Jacobson contacted a night editor for the outlet who confirmed to police that Jacobson was on assignment.

Police alleged in a statement to the Daily News that Jacobson “attempted to physically push past the officers in an attempt to gain entry and was then placed under arrest without further incident.” Jacobson denied that version of events. The NYPD did not respond to a request for further information.

Jacobson told the Tracker she was held overnight at the Midtown South Precinct and charged with obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct. She was released around 4 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2024, when the district attorney declined to prosecute the case.

A spokesperson for the DA’s office told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker said he was unable to comment on the case as it has been sealed, noting that a dismissal is a common reason for sealing a case.

In its report, the Daily News praised the decision to drop the charges, but said it is still seeking answers on why Jacobson was detained in the first place.

“Freedom of the press to operate freely and unimpeded in coverage of protests is critical for informing the public through our news coverage,” Daily News Executive Editor Andrew Julien said. “We plan on following up with the NYPD to understand what conduct could have justified the arrest.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment from reporter Roni Jacobson.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].