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 | 119 Comments »
July 17th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged Arrest, Detroit Free Press, free speech, phone, police officers, public street
NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher says Detroit Police may have violated a local news photographer’s rights when they arrested her after she attempted to film officers on a public street.
In a letter to Detroit Police Chief James Craig today, Osterreicher also expressed concern over the unlawful seizure of Mandi Wright’s iPhone. “Alleged behavior that chills free speech and violates protections against unreasonable search and seizure under color of law is of great concern to us,” Osterreicher said, adding that the apparent disappearance of Wright’s SIM card was equally troubling.
Video of the incident shows Wright filming a suspect being taken into custody. A man in plainclothes notices the journalist and rapidly approaches her while demanding she “back off.”
Wright immediately identifies herself as a member of the press, to which the man responds “Ok. I don’t care who you are.”
The man, purported to be a plainclothes DPD officer who never identifies himself in the video, confiscated Wrights phone after a brief struggle. Wright was then arrested. She says at the time, she had no idea the unidentified man was law enforcement.
In his letter to Chief Craig, Osterreicher noted that an increasing number of photographers are being unlawfully interfered with, detained, or arrested by police. “In any free country the balance between actual vigilance and over-zealous enforcement is delicate,” he said. “It may be understandable that law enforcement officers have a heightened sense of awareness after pursuing an armed suspect – but that is no excuse for blatantly violating a person’s First Amendment rights.”
DPD says an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest is ongoing. Wright has not been charged with a crime.
The NPPA has offered to help the Detroit Police Department develop reasonable and workable policies, practices and training in order to avoid similar situations.
For more on the importance of the right to photograph in public, read this article written by Osterreicher and recently published in the National Sheriff Association Magazine. He also presented a training session at their national convention in Charlotte, NC about the importance of the right to photograph and record in public.
Posted in confiscated, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Uncategorized | 12 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 »
April 23rd, 2013 by Joan Blazich and tagged Access, Anti-Paparazzi Statute, Assembly Member Richard Bloom, California, Constitution, first amendment, free speech, journalism, legislation, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, Paparazzi, photographer, photographers, photography, photojournalism, recording, trespassing, video
*** UPDATE *** In the wake of opposition from NPPA and other groups the CA Assembly Judiciary Committee made both AB-1256 and AB-1356 “2 year bills.” A 2 year bill is one which will not move out of the policy committee this year. It is eligible to be taken up again at the beginning of the 2nd year of the biennial session thus the term “2 year bill.” In January, the Legislature will hear all bills introduced in the 1st year and those that pass muster will begin to move through the process. This is very significant because every other anti-paparazzi bill that has been introduced has flown through the Legislature. This is the first time one has been held up. While the AB-1256 and AB-1356 are not dead, this indicates the sponsors may have a difficult time getting out of Judiciary in January.
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) today sent a letter to California Assembly Member Richard Bloom opposing two recently filed anti-paparazzi statutes that he sponsored. The NPPA was joined by twenty-six other organizations in sending this letter, including the Associated Press Media Editors, Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Bloomberg News, North Jersey Media Group Inc., The New Yorker, E.W. Scripps Company, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association, The Associated Press, National Public Radio, Inc., The McClatchy Company, Reuters News, Time Inc., The Washington Post, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Picture Archive Council of America, Cox Media Group, American Society of News Editors, California Newspapers Partnership, The First Amendment Coalition, Courthouse News Service, The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, Association of Alternative Newsmedia and San Francisco Bay Media Associates.
The letter is written in opposition to proposed bill AB-1256, “An act to amend Section 1708.8 of, and to add Section 1708.9 to, the Civil Code, relating to civil law.” Proposed bill AB-1256 would expand upon California’s constructive invasion of privacy law. The letter also expresses opposition to AB-1356, “An act to amend Section 1708.7 of the Civil Code, relating to stalking,” which would enhance California’s anti-paparazzi statutes.
“We believe the creation of a civil cause of action for the “constructive invasion of privacy” is overly broad and vague and imposes greater civil penalties upon otherwise protected forms of speech and expression,” wrote Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA. Osterreicher continued, “We are also concerned that remedies for invasion of privacy and trespass are already properly addressed by current California statutes and that statutory and punitive damages will further chill free speech and create uncertainty about liability.” “Additionally,” stated Osterreicher, “the definition of “commercial purposes” fails to distinguish those acts done for valid newsgathering purposes and in fact penalizes publishers and broadcasters along with visual journalists and members of the public with a camera.”
In the letter Osterreicher cites recent Supreme Court cases which support NPPA’s position that AB-1256 and AB-1356 are unconstitutional, including U.S. v. Stevens, 559 U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 1577 (2010) (holding the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 unconstitutional); California v. Superior Court of California (Raef), Case No. BS140861 (holding California statute AB-2479, an anti-paparazzi statute, unconstitutional); and Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972) (holding that “without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated”).
In another related matter a California assembly member withdrew his proposed “ag-gag” bill hours before it was to be considered at a scheduled hearing.
The measure, AB-343, sponsored by Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, originally imposed a “duty to report animal cruelty” that would have required “any person who willfully or knowingly photographs, records or videotapes animal cruelty . . .” to “submit all original photographs, recordings or video to local law enforcement and the owner of the animal(s) or a representative of the owner within forty eight hours of taking such photographs, recordings or video.”
NPPA and other groups opposed the bill as violating the Shield Law provisions of the California Constitution and Code of Evidence; as well as being unconstitutional under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in that it abridged free speech and press and constituted an unreasonable seizure lacking in due process.
“The NPPA is very proud to have the support of so many state and national organizations in its fight against these ongoing First Amendment erosions,” said NPPA President Mike Borland. “We hope that lawmakers around the country will realize that there is a better way to address their constituent’s concerns than to propose unconstitutional bills,” he added.
Posted in ag-gag, anti-paparazzi, California, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Paparazzi, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording, Regulations limiting photography | 23 Comments »
February 14th, 2013 by Joan Blazich and tagged first amendment, free speech, government, journalism, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, open government, photographers, photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, public information, sunshine week
The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) is participanting in Sunshine Week, March 10-16, 2013, along with a number of other organizations, led by cosponsors – the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE). Sunshine Week is a national initiative which was launched by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in 2002. “Sunshine Sunday” (as it was named) was a response to attempts by the Florida legislature to limit the state’s public records law. In 2003, ASNE expanded that initiative by hosting a Freedom of Information Summit in Washington which has now expanded to a weeklong event promoting the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.
As part of NPPA’s participation, general counsel Mickey Osterreicher will moderate a panel discussion on Friday, March 15 regarding the right to photograph and record in public. Panelists will include Washington Metropolitan Police Department Public Information Officer Gwendolyn Crump; attorney Mary Borja of Wiley Rein LLP in Washington; freelance photojournalist and independent video producer Mannie Garcia; Linda Epstein, senior photo editor for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services and attorney Robert Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine.
That panel is part of the Shoot Off Visual Media Workshop will be held in Arlington, VA. The program presents the best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country, who volunteer for this prestigious event that aligns service members with the national press corps, industry leaders and veteran military photographers. These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development in helping to fill training gaps for photographers.
As another “first” NPPA members are encouraged to participate in Sunshine Week by contributing images of “open government” to the Sunshine Week toolkit. This toolkit is a free resource available to any Sunshine Week participant including professional and student journalists working in any medium; bloggers; civic and non-profit organizations; schools; and government officials (for activities related to open government only). NPPA members are encouraged to photograph their interpretation and submit those images for use in the toolkit. These “open government” photographs can be literal or artistic, big government or small, or even not government-related at all—the concept and interpretation is left entirely to the photographer.
Images should be shot and emailed to Debra Gersh Heranadez at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 7, 2013. Please include “NPPA Sunshine Week Submission” in the subject line. To see materials already available in the toolkit for use by participants in their Sunshine Week Coverage, visit: http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/toolkit/.
By submitting images to the Sunshine Week toolkit, photographers grant permission for those images to be used by Sunshine Week participants only between March 10-16, 2013. No compensation will be given for materials submitted to the toolkit. All materials submitted to the toolkit will be used with appropriate attribution. Upon conclusion of Sunshine Week most items in the toolkit will be taken down except for those granting additional permission for them to remain on the site. Those submitting images also agree that the copyright remains the property of the photographer or employer of the photographer. All participants agree that by submitting images, photographers give permission to NPPA and Sunshine Week to reproduce submissions on the NPPA website as well as in the Sunshine Week Toolkit. Reasonable precautions will be taken to ensure security against unauthorized electronic reproduction.
To read more about the mission of Sunshine Week, visit http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/.
Posted in American Society of News Editors, First Amendment, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Open Government, photographers, photojournalism, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Sunshine Week | 4 Comments »
October 22nd, 2012 by Joan Blazich and tagged Arrest, first amendment, free speech, journalism, journalist, national press photographers association, NPPA, NYPD, occupy wall street, photographers, photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, police, zuccotti park
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 | 3 Comments »
October 15th, 2012 by Joan Blazich and tagged Access, Arrest, Atlanta, first amendment, free speech, journalism, journalist, Legal, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, photographers, photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, police, Student journalists
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 | 1 Comment »