Journalists detained and handcuffed in South Carolina; they were working on obtaining public records

Columbia, South Carolina — On Tuesday morning, both The State newspaper and the WLTX-TV websites reported that two WLTX journalists were detained and handcuffed as they tried to enter the Columbia Housing Authority building. Both journalists identified themselves as reporters.

Photo: Jenna Kurzyna, left, and Susan Ardis.

Jenna Kurzyna and Susan Ardis were at the Allen Benedict office building to continue their research within the office’s public records for an investigation on a gas leak and how it might be connected to two residents who died of carbon dioxide poisoning in an Authority apartment on Jan. 17. The apartment complex has been evacuated.

As they started to leave [the Columbia Housing Authority office], two security officers arrested them.

WLTX General Manager Rich O’Dell

When the journalists knocked on the door of the Authority office on Tuesday, they found what looked like a closed office, reported the WLTX website. Kurzyna and Ardis were returning to the office where public records were made public and available to the media last week. As they started to leave, two security officers arrested them, said WLTX
General Manager Rich O’Dell.

In the end, the journalists were not charged nor given a trespass citation from the public housing office. Apologies have come from the Columbia Housing Authority’s attorney and public relations personnel.

“Intimidation, arrogance, ignorance of the law are not excuses. These professional journalists will continue to do their job.” – David Baxley

SPJ South Carolina President David Baxley stated in @SPJSouthCarolina tweet that SPJ South Carolina Pro Chapter stands with @WLTX  and it reporters attempting to gain access to documents the Columbia Housing Authority said would be available. Intimidation, arrogance, ignorance of the law are not excuses. These professional journalists will continue doing their job @CityofColumbia. staff report