December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

United States

Alaska Senate Candidate “Arresting” Reporters Has No Place in a Democracy

Mr. Joe Miller

Miller for Senate

401 East Northern Lights, Suite 202

Anchorage, AK 99503


Dear Mr. Miller:


Day after day, the press freedom committee of the Overseas Press Club of America addresses itself to tyrants and bullies around the world. We insist on the public’s right to know as the cornerstone of democratic tradition. You can imagine how dismaying it is to have to write to you and object in the strongest possible way to your security team’s abuse of our colleague, Tony Hopfinger, at a public town hall in Anchorage this past Sunday afternoon.


Video provided by local station KTVA shows your security people handcuffing Hopfinger, Alaska Dispatch editor and co-owner, at Sunday’s public meeting Sunday. According to Hopfinger, “Joe was walking out in the hallway and I wanted to ask him about some issues with his former employment at the North Star Borough. I had a flip cam and asked questions.” As we do not need to tell you, Hopfinger’s interest was in capturing your comments on former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker contention that you were nearly fired for using borough computers to try and win the state Republican Party’s chairmanship. The Alaska Dispatch, with the Fairbanks Daily News Miner and Anchorage Daily News, is suing the Fairbanks North Star Borough for Miller’s employment records. You have contended this is a “personal” issue and no business of the voters, though we note that in a press conference yesterday, you acknowledged the substance of the complaint.


According to Hopfinger, “Miller started walking back in the direction he came from. At that point, suddenly I was surrounded by more security guys, supporters putting their chest into me. My defensive space was violated. I was ready to walk out. I was grabbed, thrown down to the end of the hallway, handcuffed, thrown against a wall and ‘under arrest.’ They wouldn’t identify who they were.” The KTVA video appears to shows exactly that sequence of events.


On October 18, The Anchorage Daily News reported that two of the men in the video are active-duty soldiers stationed at Fort Richardson and may not have had permission to be engaging in outside security work.


“We arrested him,” acknowledged a spokesman forDropZone Security, which your campaign has contracted for security. DropZone contends that Hopfinger was trespassing at the event — a surprising characterization for a campaign town hall advertised as an open forum on both your Website and your Facebook pages.


By what right does a private security firm arrest journalists for asking irritating questions, Mr. Miller? We are used to seeing that sort of thing in China, in Eritrea, in the Ukraine. But in Alaska? In the United States of America?


That the rule of law still obtains in Alaska was affirmed by the Anchorage Police Department, which on arriving immediately, demanded Hopfinger’s release from “arrest.” The case, as we understand it, has now been forwarded to the city prosecutor.


A man who aspires to run for U.S. Senator, Mr. Miller better expect to be accountable to the public. Americans will tolerate lots of quirks in its politicians, but we loathe bullies.


Sincerely,



Kevin McDermott
Jeremy Main

Co-chairmen – Freedom of the Press Committee


cc:

Mr. Tony Hopfinger

Editor

The Alaska Dispatch

editor@alaskadispatch.com


KTVA
1007 West 32ndAvenue

Anchorage, Alaska 99503

Fax: 907-273-3188

sfeger@ktva.com


Mr. Paul Dougherty

The Anchorage Daily News

pdougherty@adn.com