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Led by NPPA, over 60 Media Companies & Organizations Join in Support of Journalists’ Rights

March 20th, 2017 by nppaeditor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On March 17, 2017, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit supporting a visual journalist’s appeal of a lower court decision in favor of the defendant police officers who arrested him.

That “friend of the court” brief was joined by a broad coalition of over 60 media companies and organizations engaged in press photography, videography, broadcast news, journalism (both online and in print) and free-speech advocacy.

Photojournalist Douglas Higginbotham was covering an Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park in New York City on the morning of November 15, 2011. In order to get a better vantage point from which to record the large crowd of police and protestors he climbed to the top of a phone booth. Mr. Higginbotham claims that while he was in the process of complying with police officers, who had asked him to come down, he was forcibly pulled off, arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. NPPA general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher was successful in having that charge quickly dismissed by the Manhattan district attorney.

Douglas Higginbotham on the day of his arrest covering an Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park in New York City on the morning of November 15, 2011. Photo credit: PaulMartinkaPhotography.com

Higginbotham subsequently brought a federal civil rights lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the arresting officers and the City of New York. Among other things, his complaint alleged that “the defendants retaliated against him for filming a violent arrest in violation of his First Amendment rights.” In refusing to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel held (with regard to the question of whether the police officers were protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity), that  “the right to record police activity in public, at least in the case of a journalist who is otherwise unconnected to the events recorded, was ‘clearly established’ at the time of the events alleged in the complaint.”

The matter is now being appealed, following Judge Castel’s grant of a motion for summary judgment by the defendants. “Though we believe the District Court erred in granting summary judgment, we also believe that Judge Castel was correct in recognizing that the press has a First Amendment right to cover police activity, said Jay K. Goldberg, attorney for Mr. Higginbotham. “We urge the Second Circuit to adopt Judge Castel’s reasoning and align this Circuit with all others that have upheld this fundamental right of constitutional protection,” he added.

Attorneys Robert Balin, Abigail Everdell and Jack Browning, of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP drafted the amicus brief with help from NPPA’s Osterreicher. “The fact that more than 60 leading news outlets and free speech organizations have joined the NPPA in this friend of court brief speaks volumes about the importance of the First Amendment rights at stake in this case,” said Balin. “From Ferguson to Occupy Wall Street to tomorrow’s headlines, safeguarding the ability of the press and public to record and  freely discuss police activity in public places is essential to an enlightened, informed democracy. Given the national consensus by other courts, we believe a ruling by the federal appeal court in New York recognizing a First Amendment right to record the police in public is long overdue. We look forward to presenting our arguments.”

Those courts include the First, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, which have expressly acknowledged the existence of this crucial right. The Second Circuit has yet to find that right as being “clearly established,” which has had a chilling effect on journalists and citizens, while officers who arrest or harass those recording police conduct continue to avoid liability by receiving “qualified immunity” for their actions.

The brief urges the Second Circuit to “recognize—as did the district court—that members of the press unconnected with the underlying events have a clearly established First Amendment right to record officers in public places in furtherance of their free press rights to gather and disseminate news on matters of public concern.” In the alternative, the amici argue, should the Court find “that the right to record the public conduct of police officers was not clearly established . . . at the time of Mr. Higginbotham’s arrest,” it “should nonetheless use this opportunity to declare the right to be clearly established going forward.”

In reflecting on his case, Higginbotham said, “I just want to thank the NPPA for assembling so many media industry leaders, along with an impressive coalition of free speech organizations  in support of my appeal. Now is a very important time for the courts to uphold our constitutional rights,  and send a clear message that a free press must be allowed to go about our invaluable duties, which are enshrined in the First Amendment , without fear of police retaliation, or having our livelihoods destroyed.”

“The attorneys for Davis Wright Tremaine are to be commended for their work on this brief,” said Osterreicher, who has been involved in this case for the last six years. “I believe that Jay [Goldberg] has crafted an excellent appeal, while Rob, Abigail and Jack at DWT have drafted an amicus brief that should help guide the court on this issue. Of course the overwhelming support from so many groups has been very gratifying and we hope the court will take judicial notice of that fact. I would also be remiss if I did not thank Lynn Oberlander and the Press Freedom Litigation Fund of First Look Media Works for their support of Doug’s appeal. Thanks also go to Gregg Leslie at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for helping to rally support for the brief. Last but by now means least, I must thank Doug Higginbotham, who had to endure his unlawful arrest for just doing his job and for standing up for his, and in turn all of our rights, by pursuing this case.”

The groups joining with the NPPA in the brief are: ABC, Advance Publications, Inc., ALM Media, LLC, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, American Society of News Editors, Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Association of American Publishers, Inc., Association of Magazine Media, The Author’s Guild, Inc., The Buffalo News, Buzzfeed, Inc., Cable News Network, CBS Broadcasting, The Daily Beast Company, LLC, Daily News, LP, Discovery Communications, LLC, Dow Jones & Company, Inc., Electronic Frontier Foundation, The E.W. Scripps Company, First Amendment Coalition, First Amendment Lawyers Association, First Look Media Works, Inc., Fox News Network LLC, Free Press, Freedom of the Press Foundation, The Freedom to Read Foundation, Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation, Inter American Press Association, Media Coalition Foundation, Media Law Resource Center, Inc., The Media Consortium, Inc., Meredith Corporation dba WFSB-TV, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, National Press Club, National Public Radio, Inc., NBCUniversal Media, LLC, New England First Amendment Coalition, New England Newspaper & Press Association, Inc., New York News Publishers Association, New York Press Club, New York Press, Photographers Association, New York State Broadcasters Association, Inc., The New York Times Company, The News Media Alliance, NYP Holdings, Inc., Online News Association, PEN American Center, Penske Media Corporation, Radio Television Digital News Association, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, Reuters America LLC, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., Society of Professional Journalists, Student Press Law Center, Tully Center for Free Speech, Vermont Press Association, Vox Media and WNYW-TV FOX 5.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Disorderly Conduct, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Photoshop, Police, Recording Police, Regulations limiting photography, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, Robert Balin, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

NPPA Joins with 80 Groups in Statement Condemning Attacks on Press Freedoms

March 3rd, 2017 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , ,

Athens, GA, 3/3/2017 – The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) joins with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), along with more than 80 other organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, condemning efforts by the Trump administration to demonize the media and undermine its ability to inform the public about official actions and policies. In a joint statement released today, the groups stress that the administration’s attacks on the press pose a threat to American democracy.

The statement cites numerous attempts by the administration to penalize and intimidate the press for coverage the President dislikes, including refusing to answer questions from certain reporters, falsely charging the media with cover-ups and manipulation of news, and denying certain media outlets access to press briefings.  Official designation of the media as “the opposition party” escalated when the President described the New York Times, CBS, CNN, ABC, and NBC News as “the enemy of the American people!”

The statement emphasizes that an independent and free press is the Constitution’s safeguard against tyranny. Its job is not to please the President but to report accurately on the actions of public officials so the public has the information to hold power accountable. Efforts to undermine the legitimacy or independence of the press, the statement reads, “betray the country’s most cherished values and undercut one of its most significant strengths.”

“It is extremely difficult to know how best to respond to this administration’s treatment of the press,” said NPPA President Melissa Lyttle. “Some days it makes me want to laugh, others to cry, but mostly it just makes me want to scream and reinforces the importance of the fourth estate in a democratic society. It is instructive to remember that while President Obama was beautifully documented by the official White House photographers, it was often at the detriment of many other visual journalists who were denied meaningful access to important events and meetings. But such restrictions pale in comparison to the outright anger and hostility toward the press as an institution, as displayed by President Trump,” she added.

“The press plays an essential role in democracy, by serving as an independent watchdog on government conduct and as the main source of information for the public,” said NCAC’s Executive Director Joan Bertin. “The constitutional right to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances cannot be exercised in a meaningful way without access to information about what the government does in our name.”

“Given his actions and rhetoric during the campaign, the attacks on the press by President Trump should not be a surprise to anyone,” said Mizell Stewart III, president of the American Society of News Editors. “Every American should be concerned about this administration’s coordinated attempts to marginalize journalists and threaten the public’s right to know.”

READ THE STATEMENT

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For more information contact:

Mickey H. Osterreicher  [email protected]  716.983.7800

Posted in American Society of News Editors, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Trump Administration, U.S. Constitution | No Comments »

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 »

NY Federal Judge Rules in Photographer’s Favor Supporting 1st and 14th Amendment Rights

February 27th, 2017 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Today federal court Judge J. Paul Oetken denied a  motion to dismiss by the City of New York allowing the case, Jason B. Nicholas v. The City of New York, to proceed. The civil rights lawsuit was brought pro se (on his own) by Mr. Nicholas, a professional photojournalist, against Defendants William Bratton, Stephen Davis, Michael DeBonis, and the City of New York on December 8, 2015.  The suit alleges that Defendants violated Mr. Nicholas’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by revoking his NYPD issued press credential without due process and in retaliation for the content of his speech.

The Order and opinion out of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found that the government cannot pick and choose among which newsgatherers to allow access to a scene or to information and that the NYPD’s restriction on newsgathering may have violated the First Amendment. The court also found that journalists may very well have a First Amendment interest in their NYPD-issued press credential that calls for due process protections, and that the NYPD summary revocation of press credentials may have been without due process, violating the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, the court found that the city may have an unconstitutional unwritten policy to obstruct and interfere with newsgathering in general and with Mr. Nicholas’ newsgathering in particular.

See: Nicholas v. Bratton Opinion 02-27-17

 

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Motion to Dismiss, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NY Daily News, NYPD, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Press Credentials, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »

Enact Commonsense Drone Rules

March 3rd, 2016 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Amidst all the hysterical reports that the sky is falling or it’s literally raining drones, Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis recently introduced a thoughtful Micro Drone amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act (AIRR Act). The amendment would create a new “Micro UAS Classification” of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), improving safety, access and compliance while also encouraging innovation. For the first time, micro drones would be permitted for commercial purposes, appropriately advancing what many believe to be the smallest, safest and fastest-growing sector of the UAS community. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee very commendably voted to accept that amendment without any voiced opposition and then approved the entire AIRR Act, as amended.

It is crucial to note this legislation would not deregulate the use of UAS, but rather proposes regulations containing five commonsense rules that are easy to remember and follow. In fact, many of these rules already exist to oversee safe practices for the recreational use of drones. Under the new amendment, micro UAS (mUAS) would be required to operate at: “(1) less than 400 feet above ground level; (2) at an airspeed of not greater than 40 knots; (3) within the visual line of sight of the operator; (4) during daylight; and (5) at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of an airport [with an exception for those who provide notice and obtain permission].”

In response to this legislative initiative the FAA announced the formation of an aviation rulemaking committee composed of industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a similar regulatory framework. Representatives for a coalition of  more than a dozen news organizations (including NPPA) will participate as committee members.

Given the complicated and often-disregarded current FAA regulations for small UAS (sUAS), which includes every type of unmanned system under 55 pounds, we can only hope this bill will be enacted as approved and then implemented as quickly as possible. We believe that adopting the micro UAS rule will be far more effective in approving and regulating commercial use than waiting for a final FAA rule under the current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, petitioning for a Section 333 Exemption, or operating a UAS “unlawfully” in fear of FAA enforcement action.

It is widely accepted that people are far more likely to abide by commonsense rules that impose the least burdensome restrictions. This is true for operators of small unmanned aircraft systems as well. The current proposed FAA requirements that are expected to be in place later this year include aeronautical knowledge testing on eleven topics, traveling to test facilities, and re-testing every two years—requirements that create high barriers for low-risk users, increasing the potential for widespread non-compliance.

The on-going restrictions on most sUAS uses are simply not sustainable or justifiable. Enacting a new category of mUAS subject to risk-based safety and operational restrictions will enable and enhance the safety of all aspects of UAS operations, including, but not limited to: newsgathering, educational, humanitarian and commercial use. It also will relieve the FAA from some of the administrative burdens of granting exemptions for low-risk operations, thus allowing the agency to focus its resources on the more challenging aspects of safely integrating UAS use into the national air space, which is another reason the FAA should immediately begin work to support mUAS approval.

Employing simple and familiar rules that already exist for recreational use and applying them to the smallest and safest UAS category, streamlines the process for everyone (including journalists) by encouraging a culture of safety and widespread voluntary compliance, while at the same time advancing innovation. Hopefully Congress will agree and pass an FAA reauthorization act that includes the mUAS amendment.

Mickey H. Osterreicher is general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) which is part of the News Media Coalition, advocating for the use of UAS for newsgathering. He has met with the FAA and congressional staff to discuss these issues as well as participated in stakeholder meetings held by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency regarding UAS privacy concerns.

Posted in drone, Drones, First Amendment, micro drones, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

NPPA Files Comments with FAA Expressing Concerns over Drone Registration

November 18th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

On November 17, 2015 the National Press Photographers Association (“NPPA”), joined by 10 other organizations submitted supplemental comments to the FAA regarding the unintended consequences of drone registration. The groups are concerned that a registration process requiring all drone operators to carry a certificate of registration with them, and produce it on demand to a federal, state or local police official, will be used by police and prosecutors in a pretextual way to chill free speech and freedom of the press. Journalists often encounter this type of interference. Police officers who do not like news coverage of an event often use vague charges like failing to obey a lawful order or interference with officers at an emergency scene to stop journalists.

The stated purpose of a registration and marking requirement is the safe integration of drones into the national airspace. The FAA has asserted one of the ways to insure that is to have a means to identify and track the drone to its operator. The groups believe that requiring a drone operator to produce papers on demand will not aid in drone safety.

Writing for the group, NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, expressed the concern “with these unanticipated and unintended consequences which illustrate how government, and particularly law enforcement, can use discretionary laws to suppress speech activities in ways that were not considered at the time of their enactment. To pass constitutional muster and forestall constitutional conflicts between journalists and law enforcement officers, any registration system, must contain provisions that preclude officers from demanding to see journalists’ registration papers, and to then detaining, fining, or seizing property from journalists who are not carrying such documentation with them.”

The American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, The McClatchy Company, North Jersey Media Group, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center joined in the filing.

 

 

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Regulations limiting photography, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »

NPPA Joined by 13 Organizations Files Comments in Support of Electronic Recording and Audio-Visual Coverage of Court Proceedings in NYS

November 13th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The NPPA, joined by 13 other organizations filed comments today with the New York State Office of Court Administration (“OCA”) in support of proposals to revise and update the Unified Court System (“UCS”) rules regarding electronic recording and audio-visual coverage of court proceedings in the state.

The letter also supports proposed revisions to the definition of audio-visual coverage and other proposed clarifications excluding still photography from the definition of audio-visual coverage. Additionally the letter affirms support of the proposed goals set by the Communications & Media Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of New York City: “(i) consistently maintaining the distinction between audio-visual coverage and still photography throughout the rules and using consistent terminology to avoid confusion; (ii) emphasizing that there should be a presumption in favor of permitting both audio-visual and still photographic coverage to the extent consistent with Section 52 of the Civil Rights Law, with ultimate decisions left to the presiding judges; and (iii) eliminating certain restrictions on coverage created or continued by the proposed revisions that go beyond the requirements of Section 52.”

It urges OCA “to exercise its authority to ensure that New York’s court system, which has been a beacon of progressive policies for the nation, does not fall further behind than it already has under some of the anachronistic rules promulgated at a time when televisions used vacuum tubes and at best could receive 12 channels, broadcast in black & white for a few hours a day.”

Addressing those opposed to the proposed changes, NPPA general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher wrote, “the tired arguments that camera coverage will: prejudice a defendant’s fair trial rights, their right of privacy, the prosecution’s ability to have witnesses comply with subpoenas, as well as the detrimental effect cameras will have on lawyers, judges, and other participants are just that – threadbare and unsubstantiated. But the more crucial point is not how cameras affect either side in a litigation. It is whether cameras will increase the public’s confidence in our justice system. Nothing is more fundamental to our democratic system of governance than the right of the people to know how their government is functioning on their behalf. That, we submit, is a higher value which should drive the debate here; and is the central point about which the Bar Association, the Unified Court System and, indeed, the legislature should be concerned.”

The groups joining in the letter were: Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, The Deadline Club/New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Media Law Resource Center, New York News Publishers Association, New York Press Photographers Association, New York State Broadcasters Association, Inc., The NewsGuild of New York Local 31003, CWA, North Jersey Media Group, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Scripps Media, Inc., d/b/a WKBW-TV and Society of Professional Journalists.

Posted in Access, Cameras, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »

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