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Some Practical Advice about Covering High Conflict News Stories

April 28th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

See the attached document containing some practical advice about covering high conflict news stories.

Issues covered:

  • Legal
  • Local Ordinances
  • Federal Trespass
  • Resources
  • Important items to have with you
  • Potential for arrest
  • Complying with police orders
  • Being questioned and detained
  • Protecting your files
  • Arrest & release
  • Practical advice
  • Preparation
  • Your equipment

These have been put together as a result of covering the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012 the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte later that year and the demonstrations in Ferguson in 2014.

For more information please contact:

Mickey H. Osterreicher

Cell 716.983.7800

Email [email protected]

Twitter @nppalawyer

 

 

Posted in Access, Baltimore Police, Baltimore Riots, cell phone cameras, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Legal, Maryland ACLU, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights | No Comments »

NPPA, Joined by Other Media Groups Files Comments Objecting to Fairfax County, VA Photo Permit Fees

February 5th, 2015 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), joined by twelve other news and photographers’ organizations and First Amendment advocacy groups, filed comments with the Fairfax County Park Authority strongly objecting to their proposed permit and fee structure.

The proposed scheme would require all professional photographers to obtain a “professional photography permit”. Further, the permit would take 5 days to process, making it nearly impossible for news photographers to obtain one in time for most news situations, for which there is little to no warning.

The comments, authored by NPPA general counsel, Mickey Osterreicher, explains that “the proposed rules, create an unnecessary and burdensome distinction between amateur and professional photographers. Whether the images being made and recorded are for journalism, weddings or any other type of photography/filming (hereinafter “photography”), distinguishing between professional photographers and amateurs who are doing precisely the same things, at the same times, and in the same places, is arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional.”

NPPA has always argued that permits in parks should only be required if the photographer’s presence would create a disruption. As the comments explained, “We believe that the proper question to ask is whether the photography creates any unusual impact on the land. If the activity presents no more impact on the land than that of the general public, then it should be exempt from permit and fee requirements.”

In the submitted comments Osterreicher went on to explain that, “unfettered access is necessary in coverage of the important public policy issues that arise in the conservation and use of public park resources. Journalists should be free to report to the public on public issues from public lands at any time. That protection should extend not only to individuals traditionally identified as newsgatherers, but also for freelance visual journalists and members of the public who may use cameras on a speculative basis to photograph or film activities on public lands without having an assured media outlet for their work.”

The other groups joining in the letter were: the American Photographic Artists, the American Society of Media Photographers, the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photography Association, PACA Digital Media Licensing Association, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists and the White House News Photographers Association.

 

Posted in Access, American Society of News Editors, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, NPPA, Permits, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, White House News Photographers Association, WHNPA | No Comments »

NPPA Helps Create Newly Released Credentialing Report

June 5th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Journalist’s Resource project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, in collaboration with a Media Credentialing Working Group composed of the National Press Photographers Association, the Digital Media Law Project, Journalist’s Resource, Free Press, the Investigative News Network, and the Nieman Journalism Lab have released a new report: Who Gets a Press Pass? Media Credentialing Practices in the United States.

Media credentials have long played a critical role in newsgathering in the United States, allowing journalists to gain special access to places and events denied to the general public. There are, however, many inconsistencies among regulatory standards for the issuance of credentials, and many circumstances where the decision of whether and how to issue credentials is left up to individual agencies with no regulatory guidance at all. Moreover, upheaval in the journalism industry has introduced new actors in the journalism ecosystem, complicating decisions by government agencies and private gatekeepers about who should be entitled to special access.

Who Gets a Press Pass? presents a first-of-its-kind analysis of this complex environment, exploring media credentialing practices in the United States through a nationwide survey of more than 1,300 newsgatherers.

“Media credentials represent one of the most important interactions between journalists and those who control access to events and information,” said Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project and an author of the report. “This study finds common threads that run through decisions by various types of organizations, as a starting point to make sense out of the vast array of credentialing practices in the United States.”

Survey respondents included a wide range of journalists across the country, from employed journalists at long-standing media organizations to independent bloggers and activists fulfilling the information needs of their communities.

“The findings here speak to the vital issue of ensuring that journalists of all kinds can bear witness to important events in our society,” said Shorenstein Center Director Alex S. Jones. “The ability of the press to operate freely, robustly and without interference is essential to an informed public. We must be vigilant in making sure that all organizations issuing press credentials exert the maximum effort to accommodate media members and enable the free flow of information.”

The survey asked about respondents’ experiences in seeking press credentials from federal, state, local, and private organizations from 2008 through 2013, revealing the following nationwide trends:

  • One out of every five journalists surveyed who applied for a credential was denied at least once by a credentialing organization in the past five years. Although there may be reasonable grounds for denial in some cases, the data suggest systemic issues at many levels.
  • Freelancers are more than twice as likely as employed journalists to be denied a credential at least once.
  • Those identifying themselves as photographers are almost twice as likely as others to be denied a credential at least once.
  • Those identifying themselves as activists are more than twice as likely as others to be denied a credential at least once.

“It is indeed unfortunate that photographers have been one of the groups singled out for denial by agencies issuing press credentials, but it also must be pointed out that one does not need a press credential to photograph and record in a public place. That said, widespread mistrust by police officers of the media (or anyone with a camera) continues to be reflected in the misguided belief that photography and recording in public places may be prohibited,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, who helped formulate the survey.

It is the hope of the Working Group that this study will help newsgatherers to identify particular tensions in media credentialing practices and to work with credentialing agencies to resolve these tensions.

The report is available through the Digital Media Law Project’s website at http://www.dmlp.org/credentials and through the Journalist’s Resource website at http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/who-gets-press-pass-credentialing.

Posted in Access, Cameras, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Press Credentials, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »

Federal “Suspicious Activity” Reporting Initiative Threatens First Amendment Rights

September 20th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“I observed a male nonchalantly taking numerous pictures inside a purple-line train.”

If this excerpt from a Federal “Tip and Lead” report out of Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily convince you that a crime is afoot then you’re probably not alone.  Nonetheless, that photographer, and many others like him, are now in a federal database under a plan to single out people who may be planning terrorist activity

The problem with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SARI) is that many of the activities it targets seem well, unsuspicious.  Worse yet, many of those questioned under the program were engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.  Despite revisions to try to improve the program, people are still being added to the database who appear to have been doing nothing wrong.  The offense of a man recently added to the database: being “very unfriendly.”  Another was reported for buying a large quantity of cigarettes.  Both individuals were of Middle Eastern decent.  While the language initiative specifically prohibits racial profiling, a cursory investigation of what files are available suggests people are occasionally targeted for their race.   The measure also appears to have the effect, intended or otherwise, of targeting photographers in particular.

Today, in a continued effort to raise awareness of the program and improve its operational standards, the ACLU released a series of the federally collected reports online.  The NPPA joined the ACLU and 25 other organizations in a letter demanding reform. The groups also held a press conference in San Francisco addressing the impact of Suspicious Activity Reporting (“SAR”).

One of the central issues with the SAR initiative stems from confusion over what behavior falls within the programs purview.  The 2009 revised standard for the Director of National Intelligence Information Sharing Environment (ISE), one of a pair of programs that make up the initiative, defines suspicious behavior as observable actions “reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity.”  Further, the revision makes clear that “the same constitutional standards that apply when conducting ordinary criminal investigations also apply to local law enforcement and homeland security officers conducting SAR inquiries.”  The media groups applauded this as an improvement over previous versions of the program, but note that “the failure to clearly state that ISE policy did not authorize the collection, retention or dissemination of personally identifiable information in violation of federal regulations . . . has led to confusion and abuse.”

In addition, The FBI’s eGuardian program, the other arm of the initiative, does not meet the higher standards of the ISE.  The continued reporting of non-threatening behavior suggests that this disjoint is one of the causes of the problem.

Today’s letter also observed that “Based on the SARs obtained thus far, photography and videography are frequently reported without additional facts that render these constitutionally-protected activities inherently suspicious. This reporting trend matches anecdotal reports from photographers who frequently complain that they are not only detained and questioned, but are also prevented from taking photographs and video and deprived of their equipment by police.”

The NPPA has been involved with dozens of similar incidents.  They are troublingly common, even without a federal program that enables, if not encourages their occurrence. “As part of the ‘See Something Say Something Program’ the NPPA is deeply concerned that these policies create an unnecessary climate of fear and suspicion throughout the country under the guise of safety and security for otherwise First Amendment protected activity,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher.

Among the reforms suggested in today’s letter, the groups recommended the government “[re]move photography and other activities clearly protected by the First Amendment from inclusion in lists of SAR categories or other guidance criteria to prevent the unlawful stops, detention, and harassment of photographers, videographers, and journalists.”

Such a revision would be a step in the right direction to ensuring valuable First Amendment activities are not illegally obstructed, and that it’s the people who are monitoring the government, and not the other way around.

Posted in Access, ACLU, California, cell phone cameras, Department of Justice, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, SAR, Street Photography, Suspicious Activity, video cameras, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

NYPD Officer Indicted After Investigation of NPPA Member’s Unlawful Arrest

August 28th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , ,

An NYPD officer accused of roughing up and illegally arresting a New York Times photographer has been indicted on multiple charges stemming from an incident last August. Robert Stolarik, an NPPA member, was violently accosted and taken into custody while photographing Officer Michael Ackermann who was trying to arrest a teenage girl in the Bronx.

Officer Ackermann claimed Stolarik hindered police work by repeatedly aiming the flash of his camera at the officer’s face. That story crumbled under investigation by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). The Bronx district attorney also learned that Stolarik did not have a flash on his camera at the time of the incident, and concluded the officer’s story was a lie. Ackermann now faces three felonies and five misdemeanors, and could see up to seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

Working with New York Times’ Vice President and Assistant General Counsel George Freeman after the arrest, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher sent a letter to NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne objecting to Stolarik’s unwarranted arrest and rough treatment. Freeman and Osterreicher also requested that the photographer’s equipment and press credentials, both seized at the time of the incident, be immediately returned. In addition the NPPA publicly criticized the NYPD for their actions.

Stolarik’s ordeal was especially troubling because he was arrested in direct violation of NYPD’s own Patrol Guide directives as noted in a follow-up letter from Osterreicher to Browne. Osterreicher also sent a letter to the editor, which was published in the NY Times. In it Osterreicher urged “the New York Police Department to work with us to improve training and supervision for its members.”

Robert Stolarik displays his NYPD press credentials in Tampa. FL, received 2 days before the RNC (photo by Mickey Osterreicher)

The NYPD returned Stolarik’s equipment in the days following the NPPA’s first letter. Osterreicher’s continued negotiations with the department resulted in the release of the photographer’s press credentials two weeks later. Ongoing efforts by George Freeman resulted in prosecutor’s ultimately dropped all charges against Stolarik.

The internal investigation that resulted in Officer Ackermann’s indictment is an encouraging sign in what was otherwise a troubling year for the NYPD’s relationship with photographers. Soon after Stolarik’s arrest, police conducted a campaign of intimidation and interference against photographers covering the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Stolarik himself had been forcibly prevented from covering the actual rally the previous year. Several journalists were detained or arrested at the Occupy anniversary. The NPPA also responded to these incidents.

Incidents such as this are becoming all too common throughout the country. Many officers apparently do not know or disregard photographers’ First Amendment rights. Despite assertions two years ago that the NYPD was providing improved training to its officers the situation in New York City has not improved. “We have been unsuccessful in arranging a meeting with the new NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters (DCLM) or the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) to discuss these issues,” said Osterreicher. “Commissioner Kelly and his staff met with members of the media after the arrests of 26 journalists in Zuccotti Park in November of 2011, after which he issued a Finest message directing members of the NYPD to cooperate with the press. At the time I said that it was a good start but since then it appears to be just another piece of paper as far too many officers and supervisory staff ignore its directives,” Osterreicher added.

On behalf of the NPPA, Osterreicher has continued to advise and train police agencies around the country in an effort to improve police-press relations. The First Amendment is not absolute but subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. While police may have the discretion to limit access when public safety or other legitimate law enforcement activities so dictate, they may not order someone to stop taking photographs or recording video in a public place, especially if other members of the public are allowed to remain and observe those activities.

As Osterreicher says in his police training: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way!” It is indeed unfortunate that rather than respecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that they are sworn to uphold some officers believe that they are a law unto themselves. For Officer Ackermann it may have been a very costly mistake to view a photographer with a camera with suspicion and contempt. Everyone has a job to do: for a police officer it is to provide public safety and enforce the law; for a visual journalist it is to gather and disseminate news. It would best serve both purposes if this case helps to encourage cooperation between the two professions rather that continued conflict. As often is the case it’s the enlightening truths that prove most elusive.

Posted in Access, DCPI Paul Browne, False Arrest, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Press Credentials, Public Photography, Recording Police, Robert Stolarik | No Comments »

California Anti-Paparazzi Law Would Threaten First Amendment Rights

August 16th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Earlier this summer the California legislature proposed a new “anti-paparazzi” bill, which NPPA opposes. More recently, Actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner testified before the California State Assembly, voicing their support for the bill that carries with it serious First Amendment implications. The measure would make it illegal to photograph a child because of their parent’s job (i.e, acting) without the parent’s permission, and expands the scope of existing California harassment law while increasing the penalty for a violation.   Photographers convicted under the measure could face up to year in prison.  SB 606 would also allow an aggrieved party to pursue enhanced civil suit against a photographer.

If the bill is ultimately signed in to law, anyone with a camera who tries to get a snapshot of a celebrity’s child could be liable if their conduct “alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the child” and causes “substantial emotional distress.”  It’s not the clearest of legal standards, and the bill doesn’t offer much more in the way of explanation, something NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher took issue with in opposing the bill.  “We are extremely concerned that the bill as it pertains to photography and recording is overly broad and vague and infringes upon otherwise protected forms of speech and expression,” Osterreicher said, also noting that the terms used in the bill are “vague and susceptible to subjective interpretation.”

The mercurial relationship between the Hollywood “paparazzi” and the stars they photograph is well documented.  Confrontations are not uncommon.   Protecting children is certainly a laudable goal, but there are already laws in place for situations when someone, photographer or otherwise, steps over the line.  With this in mind, Osterreicher contends that the measure in question unjustifiably blurs the line between actual harassment and valuable First Amendment activities, saying “[the bill] fails to recognize those acts done for valid newsgathering or expressive purposes and in fact creates additional liability for visual journalists and members of the public with a camera.”

“[T]he First Amendment has permitted restrictions on few historic categories of speech, including obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, and speech integral to criminal conduct,” Osterreicher continued. “Visual images and recordings of another person, albeit a child, who is out in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy should not be added to that list.”

Again, there’s a difference between punishing photographers who harass someone and defining photography as harassment in and of itself.

This isn’t the first time the California legislators have targeted photographers. A 2010 anti-paparazzi law was called into question earlier this year, when a judge threw out charges against a photographer who authorities say was driving recklessly while attempting to get picture of Justin Bieber.  The judge said the law was unconstitutionally broad and violated the First Amendment.   The NPPA along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and six other media organizations filed and Amicus Letter Brief on behalf of the photographer. That ruling is currently under review.

SB 606 passed the California State Assembly and is set to go to appropriations committee.  As the bill moves closer to becoming law, legislators should take care not to allow a distaste for the manner in which some photographers conduct themselves to undermine their ability to uphold their duty to defend free speech rights guaranteed to all citizens.

Posted in anti-paparazzi, California, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, Paparazzi, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press | 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 »

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