August 24th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged first amendment, free speech, journalism, journalist, Legal, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, Supreme Court of the United States
Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), offered his legal expertise in a webinar Thursday night in which panelists discussed media issues surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, N.C.
The webinar, entitled “Reporting at the Conventions : Safety, Security & Rights,” featured journalists and policy experts who offered their advice on how to act and what to look for while covering the events. Josh Stearns, the Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director at Free Press, led the discussion that focused primarily on arrest issues and Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizures.
“I think one of the things that drew [the panel] together was the concern for finding ways to support journalists as the demographics of journalism are changing, and we’re seeing more and more freelance, independent, and citizen journalists out there on the front lines covering these sorts of events,” Stearns said. “We want to provide tools, networks, resources and support for those journalists.”
The panel featured Natasha Lennard and Susie Cagle, two journalists who shared their experiences of being arrested while covering Occupy protests. The panel also featured Andy Sellars, who works for the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center.
The webinar gave viewers a chance to interact and direct questions to the panelists about issues particularly concerning to them. In light of the increase of freelance and citizen journalists, one pressing concern involved distinguishing one’s self from protestors and the extent to which media credentials would protect journalists from police interference.
Osterreicher, who will attend both the RNC and DNC, told viewers that only officially issued credentials will be honored and valid for inside security perimeter areas, and that prohibitions against certain items may make it difficult for anyone without those credentials to carry out their assignments.
“The problem is that for both of these conventions, I think the secret service are pretty much setting the tone for these things,” Osterreicher said. “”It’ll be interesting to see what happens when people are carrying some of these prohibited items to the credentialed area.”
Sellars informed viewers that his group had published a guide on the state of the law in Tampa and Charlotte that will help journalists better understand what to expect while covering the conventions.
“Both Tampa and Charlotte have passed ordinances that prohibit certain items,” Sellars said. “The trick is that you have to think about these things from the perspective of law enforcement. It’s not what your intent is so much as what the police think your intent is.”
The RNC runs from Aug. 27-30, while the DNC runs from Sep. 4-6. For more information on the issues discussed during the webinar, a recording of the event can be seen here.
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