September 20th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged Access, first amendment, free speech, journalism, journalist, national press photographers association, NPPA, photographers, photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, police, recording
“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 | 125 Comments »
August 28th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged New York City, New York Times, NYPD, occupy wall street, Officer Michael Ackermann, Robert Stolarik
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 | 142 Comments »
August 16th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged California, California State Assembly, celebrities, children, Halle Berry, harassment, hollywood, Jennifer Garner, Justin Bieber, legislators, Paparazzi, unconstitutional
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 | 120 Comments »
June 13th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged Access, Arrest, California Department of Parks and Recreation, first amendment, free speech, journalism, law, Legal, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, photographers, photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, recording, Southern California Edison, trespassing, video
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 | 177 Comments »
May 16th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), joined by The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., The American Society of Media Photographers, The Radio Television Digital News Association, and The Society of Professional Journalists, has submitted letters to each of the Texas Senators, expressing extreme opposition to House Bill 912, which has passed the Texas House and is quickly making its way through the Texas Senate.
The bill makes it an offense to capture an image using an unmanned aerial vehicle, (UAV), commonly called “drones,” “with the intent to monitor or conduct surveillance.” This is the core of the offense, but there is no definition regarding what it means to “monitor” or what it means to “conduct surveillance.” NPPA’s attorney Alicia Calzada wrote, “We believe that this bill will create a significant impediment to journalists and others who are engaged in constitutionally protected speech.”
The current version of the bill has no exceptions for first amendment activity. “A journalist (or ordinary citizen) monitoring an environmental spill, documenting the aftermath of a disaster or simply monitoring traffic conditions could easily be committing a crime under this bill,” Calzada explained.
Multiple NPPA members also sent letters of objection. NPPA testified against the bill before a House committee earlier this session.
Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Texas, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | 6 Comments »
August 29th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged Access, Arrest, first amendment, Hillsboro Police Department, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, photographers, photography, photojournalism, police, RNC, Tampa Police Department
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor speaks to media prior to a protest march at the Republican National Convention Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher
Despite fears from some in the media that law enforcement at the Republican National Convention (RNC) would take a combative approach against protestors and journalists, the first three days of the convention have proven to be rather benign, with no reported interference with or arrests of members of the media.
Thanks in part to training programs implemented by Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), law enforcement at the convention in Tampa have attained a better grasp of the balance between the need to protect the public safety with the First Amendment rights of the press. It was Osterreicher’s hope that the training would help officers better understand those stakes when interacting with journalists at the convention.
“I think it is a combination of a number of factors, from low protester turnout to the threat of a hurricane in Tampa, along with the fact that law enforcement officials were very receptive to training that has contributed very peaceful demonstrations so far,” Osterreicher said. “I also commend all the officers from various departments around the state for their very professional, friendly and helpful attitude toward everyone they encounter, especially the press.”
Osterreicher said he reached out to the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office back in February to offer training that would help officers prepare for the August convention. The law enforcement offices accepted, and Osterreicher held a training session in April during which he highlighted common First Amendment rights violations officers can make when dealing with journalists. Osterreicher said he commends Tampa law enforcement for agreeing to the training sessions and that he was happy for the opportunity to provide it.
“Leadership comes from the top and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Hillsboro County Sheriff David Gee have been in the forefront not only in fully embracing and supporting the training but in being out on the street with their officers, protesters and media on a daily basis,” Osterreicher said.
Hillsboro County Sheriff David Gee does a “liveshot” via Skype at the scene of police protester confrontation near the Tampa Convention Center during the Republican National Convention. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher.
Mauricio Rodriguez, assistant city attorney for Tampa, said that he was pleased by the way officers and protestors have handled themselves to this point during the RNC. Rodriguez said that the city being proactive and communicating with protestors and the press has helped to keep the waters calm during the hurricane-blighted convention.
That sentiment was shared by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Larry McKinnon, who said that his office values First Amendment rights and works to keep officers informed of how to deal with protestors and the media.
“We’ll never arrest a protestor,” McKinnon said. “We’ll only arrest people breaking the law who happen to be protestors. We encourage the right to protest so long as you’re obeying the law.”
McKinnon credits the NPPA for helping to prepare Tampa law enforcement for the event. McKinnon notes that in chaotic times officers will not always be perfect, but that the goal of the sheriff’s office is to make sure that mistakes are corrected so everything runs smoothly.
“The NPPA didn’t come down here saying you better do it this way or else,” McKinnon said. “Mickey knows it’s not gonna be perfect, but that if there was an issue then it would be resolved the best way possible.”
After a 2008 convention season that saw scores of arrests of protestors and journalists during clashes with police, spokeswoman Laura McElroy of the Tampa Police Department said that the department has been excited that there have been few issues to date. She credits the NPPA for helping to not only train officers but keeping the media in the know for the convention.
“There is a big disparity between what the officers expect and what the media expect at events like these,” McElroy said. “We are trying to bridge that disparity.”
The RNC concludes on Thursday. RNC organizers are still preparing contingency plans in the event that Hurricane Isaac derails planned events for the last day of the convention. The Democratic National Convention, which is hosted in Charlotte, N.C., will take place from Sep. 4-6 and NPPA will be there as well.
Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, FL, Florida, Hillsboro County Sheriff's Office, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Recording Police, RNC, Tampa, Tampa Police Department | No Comments »
July 7th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged Access, copyright, national press photographers association, NPPA, Photo Rights Agreement, photojournalism, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) received clarification from Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) today regarding PPIHC’s credentialing process for photographers and its policy on copyright ownership of photographs taken at the event.
PPIHC’s clarification comes in response to a letter sent by the NPPA yesterday after photographers had expressed concerns over PPIHC photograph policies.
“I have received a number of inquiries from members concerned about the language and terms set forth in this agreement and I have my own questions regarding the applicability and propriety of these requirements and ‘grant of rights’ as they pertain to photojournalists,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA.
PPIHC’s “Photo Rights Agreement” states that “PPIHC owns the rights to any photos taken and copies of the photos will be provided to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb upon request.” The agreement further states that there is a $250 fee to obtain “2012 photo rights.”
Neither PPIHC’s photo rights agreement nor its official media guide makes a distinction between commercial and media photographers in regards to credentials and fees. In a conversation with Osterreicher, a PPIHC spokesperson explained that the photo rights agreement does not apply to photojournalists, but only to photographers who sell their photos to the public.
Osterreicher said that, while it is encouraging that PPIHC will not charge photojournalists or assume ownership over their photos, the fact that the agreement applies to “non-commercial” photography may still confuse photographers, who typically associate the term with editorial photography. Osterreicher also expressed concern that freelance photographers may be denied credentials, as the PPIHC credential application states that accreditation may only be issued to “approved” news organizations.
Though the application period for obtaining media credentials closed in June, PPIHC has expressed the intent to reopen the credentialing process in light of the race’s rescheduling due to the recent and widespread Colorado wildfires. Osterreicher said that the rescheduling offers an opportunity for race organizers to clarify their policy in a way that prevents confusion and encourages access for photographers, which in turn will benefit the PPIHC with more media coverage.
According to its website, the PPIHC is the second oldest motor sports race in America. NPPA attorney Alicia Calzada said that a general concern stemming from events such as PPIHC, which largely takes place on public roads, is that their organizers place restrictions on photography although the event is taking place in a public place where anyone has a right to take pictures.
“No permit should be needed to take pictures from public streets and sidewalks- although given safety issues inherent in racing, local police can certainly impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on these places,” Calzada said.
Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »