(CN) – Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit that publishes the Press Freedom Index worldwide rankings, slammed the “brutal arrest” of a New York Times photographer who captured a teenage girl’s arrest in the Bronx.
As the United States took a nosedive down to 47th place in the group’s rankings earlier this year, leaving it tied with Romania, the group cited the New York City Police Department’s clampdown on journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests as the reason.
Reporters Without Borders saw a continuation of this trend on Saturday, when the NYPD arrested Robert Stolarik, 43, a decade-long Times freelancer who regularly chronicled the Occupy movement.
The morning after his arrest, the Times reported that police beat him, handcuffed him and seized the camera had used to cover a teenage girl’s street arrest in the Bronx.
“Mr. Stolarik said he asked for the officers’ badge numbers, and the officers then took his cameras and dragged him to the ground; he said that he was kicked in the back and that he received scrapes and bruises to his arms, legs and face,” the Times reported.
Although the NYPD released a statement claiming Stolarik violently resisted arrest, another reporter’s video showed him to be face down beneath a pile of six officers, the Times reported.
Stolarik faces criminal charges of obstructing government administration and resisting arrest.
Reporters Without Borders urged the court to dismiss the resisting and obstruction charges on Thursday. The group also said that the NYPD should return Stolarik’s press credentials and equipment.
Stolarik has said he would not be able to cover the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of the month in “light of the attack,” according to Reporters Without Borders.
“It’s hard to go out and feel comfortable doing my job with pending charges,” Stolarik said, as quoted in the group’s statement.
Reporters Without Borders denounced Stolarik’s arrest as the continuation of a trend that they have observed since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“The brutal arrest of Robert Stolarik shows that the police are far from learning the lessons of their numerous attacks on freedom of information during Occupy Wall Street demonstrations,” the group said in a statement. “More than 80 journalists suffered police violence and in some cases criminal charges in a dozen cities since September, 2011, These abuses demand serious investigation, as well as better police training, to which journalists can contribute. Recent cases – including that of Robert Stolarik – underline the need for these steps.”
Stolarik’s court date has been set for Nov. 29, according to the group.