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NPPA, Joined by Other Groups Sends Letter Requesting Return of Seized Equipment

February 28th, 2017 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

***** UPDATE 3/1/17 *******

The seized cameras, phones and equipment belonging to visual journalists, Tonita Cervantes and Tracie Williams, was returned to them today.

Today, the NPPA joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association, the Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to Morton County State’s Attorney, Allen Koppy, seeking the return of all equipment and personal items seized from visual journalists, Tonita Cervantes and Tracie Williams subsequent to their arrest last week while covering events at the Dakota Access Pipeline camp. Their attorney, Matthew E. Kelley, of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP made a similar request yesterday.

This follows on the heels of a previous letter sent by the same group urging officials to allow journalists to do their work at Standing Rock.

Today’s letter also requests that “the charges be dropped against these two journalists in the interst of justice.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Photographers' Rights, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

Court Orders Police in Ferguson Not to Interfere with Individuals Who are Photographing or Recording in Public

November 21st, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri granting three orders agreed and consented to by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the County of St. Louis Missouri and the City of Ferguson. The orders signed by Judge John A Ross for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the County of St. Louis enjoins those entities from  “interfering with individuals who are photographing or recording at public places but who are not threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.”

The order directed at the City of Ferguson more specifically prohibits the city from enforcing or threatening to enforce “any rule, policy or practice that grants law enforcement officers the authority or discretion to arrest, threaten to arrest, or interfere with any individual, including any member of the media or member of the public photographing or recording in public places unless that person is threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.”

The fact that the orders protect photographers who are not “physically” interfering with law enforcement prevents agencies from claiming that the act of reporting is in itself threatening or otherwise an interference. “Journalists and law enforcement officials share a common responsibility – we all serve the public – raising the awareness of law enforcement personnel about these matters after the fact only means that journalists were prevented from doing their jobs, and because of that, the public was not properly served,” said NPPA president Mark J. Dolan.

In August the ACLU file a lawsuit in federal court against police agencies in Ferguson on behalf of photographer Mustafa Hussein. The complaint sought a preliminary injunction against police policies of demanding and ordering members of the media and public to stop recording the police acting in their official duty on public streets and sidewalks. It also sought to have the court declare that the police policy on its face and as-applied violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by chilling free speech without due process.

In support of that lawsuit, the NPPA filed a Declaration outlining some of the issues faced by visual journalists as well as how NPPA’s general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, tried to deal with those situations while he was in Ferguson this summer. The bigger issues were the fact that police tried to keep the media in areas they had established rather than allow  access to traditionally open public forums such as sidewalks. Osterreicher suggests that journalists print out and carry the orders to show police who may be in contempt. “While it is gratifying that the police agencies agreed to these self-evident liberties it is still troublesome that they have apparently failed to provide any substantive training regarding constitutional rights. As we have seen time and time again without proper training  p0lice frequently disregard the Bill of Rights and any enforcement orders as just another piece of paper,” Osterreicher said.

NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale added, “We are pleased that the court again has recognized and emphasized the important and Constitutionally-protected right of visual journalists to perform their critical news-gathering function free of harassment and undue restrictions. The NPPA hopes and trusts that law enforcement agencies in and around Ferguson will unerringly abide by these court orders.”

The orders resolves the case, but the federal court specifically retains jurisdiction to enforce the injunctions.

Posted in Access, ACLU, Assault on Photographers, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

A Tale of Two Cases: How Photographers Are Being Squeezed From All Sides

November 20th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher

Today was a picture perfect example of how photographers are being squeezed from all sides. On the front end photographers are being interfered with and arrested on an almost daily basis nationwide for doing nothing more than trying to do their jobs by photographing and recording matters of public concern on city streets.

In one such case a NYC Criminal Court jury acquitted photographer Jason Nicholas today on a misdemeanor count of Obstructing Governmental Administration. Mr. Nicholas was arrested in 2011 for allegedly interfering with NYNJ Port Authority Police while covering a news story. A previous trial resulted in a hung jury but the district attorney chose to re-try him. Afterwards Mr. Nicholas said, “this is a victory for us and a swift and resounding defeat for the police and prosecution!” “Now maybe we can get this to stop on behalf of all journalists,” he added.

On the back end where photographers works are being used globally without their permission, Daniel Morel was sitting in a federal courtroom a few blocks away from Mr. Nicholas. He is pitted against Agence France Press (AFP) (and Getty Images) in a copyright infringement case. Read about this case along with updates here.

Liability for infringement has already been established. The only remaining defendants in the counterclaim case are AFP and Getty Images, as the other defendants have already settled with Mr. Morel.  All that is left for the jury to decide is how much each of them (AFP & Getty) must pay in damages. Click here for a running blog of the six (6) days of testimony.

Attorneys for both sides are expected to make their closing arguments tomorrow morning in the Southern District of New York Courthouse located at 40 Foley Square in New York City. Judge Nathan’s courtroom is on the 5th floor for those of you able to attend.

So on one day within a few blocks of each other I was able to view some of the major challenges facing photographers around the world and also witness how two of them chose to stand up for their rights and by so doing take a stand against those who would violate our constitutional and copyrights.

 

Posted in Access, AFP v Morel, Agence France-Presse, Assault on Photographers, contracts, copyright, copyright infringement, Daniel Morel, False Arrest, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, Getty, Lawsuit, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, social networking, Twitpic, Twitter | No Comments »

California Parks Department Responds to Incident with Film Crew

June 13th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A month after being notified the California Department of Parks and Recreation has responded to a letter sent by NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher regarding an incident during which parks employees detained a news crew and ordered them to delete their footage. KGTV Team 10 reporter Mitch Blacher and photojournalist Arie Thanasoulis were on public property at San Onofre State Beach on April 29, 2013 shooting footage for a story on the San Onofre Nuclear power plant when they were approached by a parks employee who accused them of trespassing, blocked their vehicle and ordered them to stop recording.

That employee, later identified as Bob Warman, then called State Parks Police Officer Ennio Rocca  who arrived and also proceeded to harass and threaten to arrest the pair for doing nothing more than recording video of the plant from an area open to the public.  Officer Rocca in turn called an unidentified employee of Southern California Edison, who arrived on the scene dressed in full SWAT gear. The three of them then ordered the crew to delete whatever video they had already shot under threat of arrest.While the trio claimed the news crew was standing on private property, the “no trespassing” sign they referred to turned out to be for “no parking,” while a fisherman and a woman walking her dog are visible in video footage in an area they alleged was “secure.” Although the news crew complied with the unreasonable demand and deleted a file containing the footage they were able to broadcast a story using video contained on a second file.

In his letter Osterreicher called the actions of the parks officers “a clear violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.” “It is one thing for officers to act when there is probable cause, Osterreicher wrote, “it is quite another to abuse that discretion in order to create a climate that infringes upon free speech under the pretext of safety and security.” He requested that the “matter be fully investigated and the employees properly disciplined if so indicated.” Osterreicher also advised the department by email of another incident that occurred on May 14, 2103 involving its officers, who detained and questioned two other photographers, JC Playford and Gerry Nance, filming near the power plant gate.

Responding to the NPPA, California Department of Parks & Recreation Chief Counsel Claire LeFlore agreed that the officers had overstepped their bounds. “In hindsight, they may have acted with an overabundance of caution while detaining the news crew,” LeFlore said, “but there was never an intention to violate anyone’s constitutional rights.” LeFlore noted that the incident came shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, and at that “staff was on high alert for the possibility of additional terrorist actions.” Osterreicher responded to that statement in a subsequent interview, saying, “it is indeed unfortunate that well-meaning people still somehow equate an act of terrorism with photography.” “In the Boston tragedy it should be duly noted that law enforcement requested anyone who had pictures or video of the event provide them voluntarily – not delete them,” he added.

The importance of defending sensitive targets is well understood, but, as Osterreicher noted, “in any free country the balance between actual vigilance and over-zealous enforcement is delicate.” LeFlore says all personnel involved in the incident have been counseled on how to properly deal with the press “so that First Amendment rights can be protected and both the press and [parks] staff can carry out their functions with minimal interference with each other.” Officers have also been counseled that there is no legal basis for the seizure or destruction of photographs or video.

Osterreicher also sent copies of his letter to officials from Southern California Edison, the owners of the plant but received no response. In its report 10News quoted a spokeswoman for the utility, as saying, “a security officer ‘responded conservatively when he indicated to a television crew his preference that they stop filming and delete their video.'” Osterreicher also responded to that statement, “Indicating a preference that someone stop filming is a far cry from illegally ordering someone to do so under threat of arrest.” “Aside from being factually incorrect, the arrogance of Southern California Edison in their failure to respond to our letter, unrepentant statements to KGTV and behavior of their employees speaks for itself,” he concluded.

The NPPA has offered to work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to improve their guidelines and training regarding these matters in order to avoid similar situations. The parks department says it will consider NPPA suggestions in implementing an expanded staff training program.

KGTV reporter Mitch Blacher said in an email, “It is encouraging to see the California state parks police work to remedy the oppression of constitutional rights by their officers,” adding, “As American citizens and working journalists our treatment was highly troubling.” “More questions need to be asked as to why California parks police and staff followed the direction of non-sworn private security personnel instead of the federal and state constitutions they swore an oath to uphold.”  1oNews Special Projects Executive Producer Ellen McGregor added, “As a manager behind-the-scenes, who talked for quite some time on the phone with parks police that day, Mickey’s offer train the agencies on the First and Fourth Amendments proves the NPPA’s commitment to a free press, and the journalists at KGTV are grateful.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, California, detained, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Regulations limiting photography, trespass | No Comments »

NPPA Joins Lawsuit Against NYPD

October 22nd, 2012 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) announced that it was joining 5 elected officials and almost a dozen members of the press in a lawsuit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) and JP Morgan Chase. The lawsuit alleges that the City of New York, the MTA, the NYPD, Brookfield Properties, and JP Morgan Chase conspired to violate the First Amendment rights of press members who were arrested while covering the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The amended complaint seeks both redress against police misconduct during these arrests and that a federal independent monitor be appointed to observe future NYPD incidents involving the press.

NPPA joins this lawsuit on behalf of its 7000 members, including Plaintiff Stephanie Keith. Recently awarded the Newswoman of the Year Award by the Newswoman’s Club of New York, Ms. Keith was arrested twice while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. “I joined this lawsuit because as a working journalist I’ve been arrested, thrown to the ground, hit with batons and yelled at by the NYPD while doing my job on assignment” said Ms. Keith. “I have seen my fellow journalists being treated this way as well. Why should journalists be subjected to trauma inducing harassment on the job?”

Sean D. Elliot, President of NPPA, stated that NPPA joined the lawsuit so that “it can effectively address the continuing course of conduct by the NYPD against its members and others that has chilled our Constitutionally protected rights to gather and disseminate news.”

Other plaintiffs in this lawsuit were quick to praise NPPA for joining as a new party. “We are pleased and honored to have the NPPA join our efforts, and we look forward to working with them towards the goals of justice, accountability and freedom of expression,” said Sam Cohen, one of the attorneys at the helm of the case. Yetta Kurland, a civil rights attorney assisting with the case, remarked that “The NPPA and other members of the press play a vital role in getting the message of OWS out to the world. Arresting the press isn’t just an attempt by the City and JP Morgan Chase to suppress the press and freedom of speech and expression, but also to suppress the message of Occupy.”

Posted in Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | No Comments »

Charges Against 2 Student Journalists Dropped in Atlanta

October 15th, 2012 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Charges against two student journalists arrested while covering the Occupy Atlanta protests last year have finally been dropped. College journalists Alisen Redmond of The Sentinel at Kennesaw State University and Judith Kim of The Signal at Georgia State University were arrested by police on November 5, 2011 on charges of “obstruction of traffic,” even though both women were standing with a group of other media reporters on a street that police had already closed to traffic.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced the decision to drop the charges on October 13 during a conference held by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. When asked why he had failed to address the matter sooner, Reed responded that “he had not heard anything about it in the press or from his assistants.” Upon learning that the charges had been dropped, NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said, “we applaud the city’s actions and hope this incident will serve as an example to others that it is never too late to make sure that justice is served.”

Osterreicher had sent Mayor Reed a letter on October 1 asking him to dismiss the charges against the students. Among other things, the letter, written on behalf of The American Society of News Editors, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The Atlanta Press Club, Cable News Network, Inc., The American Society of Media Photographers and The Student Press Law Center, urged Mayor Reed to “use your good offices to help seek an immediate dismissal of these charges in the interest of justice.”

An even earlier letter from The Student Press Law Center’s Executive Director Frank LoMonte was sent on November 7, 2011. In that letter LoMonte asked Mayor Reed to “immediately initiate an investigation into the circumstances of these student journalists’ arrests, and that you instruct the Police Department to withdraw all charges against the students and against any journalist whose ‘crime’ consists of standing on public property non-disruptively gathering news.”

NPPA has repeatedly pointed out to numerous groups and law enforcement agencies that actions by officers to interfere with and detain those engaged in Constitutionally protected activity under color of law is wrong. The NPPA has also strongly objected to journalists being harassed, intimidated and arrested while covering news stories because they were not considered to be “properly credentialed” by the police.

Posted in Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, detained, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police, Student, students | No Comments »

NPPA Along With 13 Media Groups Sends Letter to NYPD Regarding Police-Press Relations

October 1st, 2012 by and tagged , , , ,

The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) along with 13 other media organizations sent a letter to the New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today requesting another meeting to discuss recent police incidents involving journalists in New York City. Joining in the letter were: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, the Associated Press, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, the New York Press Club, the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, the New York Press Photographers Association, the American Society of Media Photographers, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The first incident desribed in the letter involved the arrest of New York Times photographer Robert Stolarik on August 4, 2012, in the Bronx. Stolarik was interfered with and arrested for taking pictures of an arrest which was being conducted as part of New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” program. Throught the efforts of NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher and New York Times deputy general counsel George Freeman, Stolarik was able to recover his equipment a week later and his credentials on August 23, 2012. Although Stolarik filed a complaint with the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau immediately after his release the report of that investigation has not been released.

“We are also deeply concerned because his arrest appears to be in direct contravention of a 6/2/77 Stipulation and Order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the matter of Black v. Codd, which was incorporated verbatim into the NYPD Patrol Guide in 2000 at PG 208-03 under the heading “Observers at the Scene of Police Incidents,” Osterreicher wrote in his letter to the NYPD.

Also of concern to the group was the treatment of journalists on September 17, 2012, when members of the NYPD “interfered with, assaulted, detained and in some cases arrested members of the media who were on a public street covering the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests.” Media members reported that officers told them that they were not allowed to use their cameras in a public area before using batons to force them from the area. Another group of journalists present were threatened with arrest if they failed to leave the area, even though the same police officers were permitting members of the public to pass through the same area.

“It is our strongly asserted position that while the press may not have a greater right of access than the public, they have no less right either,”  Osterreicher wrote. “We strongly object to any journalists being harassed, intimidated and arrested when clearly displaying press identification solely because they were not considered to be ‘properly credentialed’ by the police,” he added.

The letter concluded by stating, “given these ongoing issues and incidents we believe that more is needed in order to improve police-press relations and to clarify the ability of credentialed and non-credentialed journalists to photograph and record on public streets without fear of intimidation and arrest. Therefore, we urge you meet with us once again so that we may help devise a better system of education and training for department members starting from the top down.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NY Daily News, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Press Credentials, Recording, Recording Police, Robert Stolarik | No Comments »

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