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Texas Court Upholds the Right to Photograph and Record Police Activity

July 26th, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

In an important ruling in Texas, a federal judge held that the right to record police activity is a clearly established right protected by the First Amendment.

In a civil rights lawsuit, Antonio Buehler alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested by the Austin Police Department multiple times for taking pictures of police activities. Buehler was first arrested when he came upon a police scene at a gas station, where he began recording the arrest because he felt that excessive force was being used. After that arrest, he formed a group called the “Peaceful Streets Project” and began regularly documenting police activity. He was arrested again and again for documenting police activity, according to the lawsuit.

In an effort to get the lawsuit dismissed, the Austin Police Department claimed “qualified immunity” which protects state officials from suit. However, qualified immunity is not available if officials violate a clearly established constitutional right. In their argument, APD claimed that the right to photograph or videotape police officers “is not recognized as a constitutional right”.

In an order released Thursday, the federal judge in the case held that not only is there a constitutional right to document police officers, but that the right is clearly established. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane held that “the First Amendment protects the right to videotape police officers in the performance of their official duties, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”

Continuing, the judge wrote:

If a person has the right to assemble in a public place, receive information on a matter of public concern, and make a record of that information for the purpose of disseminating that information, the ability to make photographic or video recording of that information is simply not a new or a revolutionary expansion of a historical right. Instead the photographic or video recording of public information is only a more modern and efficient method of exercising a clearly established right.

Buehler’s attorney, Daphne Silverman told NPPA, “Antonio and I are pleased with Judge Lane’s ruling upholding the First Amendment right to document police conduct. This is a win for the citizens and should be of no concern to honest police officers.”

The NPPA filed an amicus brief in the case last month in support of Buehler’s position, whose case will now go forward.

See also, http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/crime-law/federal-judge-upholds-activist-antonio-buehlers-ri/ngnbp/

Posted in Austin Police, blogging, False Arrest, Federal Court, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | No Comments »

NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS

July 16th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA filed comments with the FAA in support of petitions from a number of aerial photo and video production companies seeking exemptions to commercially operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS – 55lbs or less) for motion picture and television industry use. The NPPA also joined in the analysis submitted as part of the News Media Coalition’s Comments in Support of Video-Production Companies’ Petitions to the FAA for Section 333 Exemption. That Media Coalition includes: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; Gray Television, Inc.; NBCUniversal, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and WP Company LLC (d/b/a The Washington Post), represented by Charles D. Tobin and Christie N. Waltz of the Washington, DC law firm Holland & Knight, LLP. The additional comments by NPPA were submitted to reflect the specific concerns of our members and were drafted by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and Advocacy Chair Alicia Wagner Calzada, who is also an  attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP.

As noted, the NPPA has an acute interest in helping the FAA properly expedite the integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (“NAS”).  We also support exemptions by the FAA that would permit journalists, and in particular visual journalists, to use sUAS for newsgathering purposes. The NPPA reviewed the voluntary and self-imposed “limitations and conditions” proposed in the production companies’ petitions. And while they may be acceptable to those groups, we urged the FAA to decline to adopt or extend them as prerequisites for future exemptions or as future standards in its rulemaking. The NPPA acknowledged that some of those limitations and conditions might be acceptable, but expressed our concerns about others that we deemed to be impractical and which would impose an undue burden on sUAS use for newsgathering.

The NPPA continues to assert that sUAS use for newsgathering is not a “commercial use” and we expect to see tangible benefits if the current exemption requests are granted. Specifically, we would hope that NPPA will also be allowed to “facilitate” exemption petitions on behalf our membership in a similar manner to what has been achieved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The NPPA also referenced in its comments and filed a copy of our paper written in support of sUAS for use in newsgathering, which also included results from a study we conducted on that subject.

 

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, rulemaking, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS | 1 Comment »

NPPA Helps Create Newly Released Credentialing Report

June 5th, 2014 by Tyler Wilson 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 »

NPPA Joins 32 Other Organizations in Calling on FAA to Expedite Rulemaking for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

April 8th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) joins the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and 30 other organizations in sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encouraging the agency to expedite the rulemaking process for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations in the U.S. airspace. The letter also calls on the FAA to allow the limited use of small UAS for commercial purposes before the final rulemaking is completed.

While Congress authorized the integration of UAS in 2012 and the FAA has recently implemented key steps in the integration process, the rulemaking for small UAS has been delayed for almost four years. Last month’s FAA v. Pirker decision underscores the immediate need for a safety structure and regulatory framework for small UAS, according to the co-signees.

“The time for resolution has come, and we cannot afford any further delays. The technology is advancing faster than the regulations to govern it,” the letter states. “While the FAA has indicated its intention to appeal the Pirker decision to the full National Transportation Safety Board, we strongly encourage the FAA to simultaneously expedite its small UAS rulemaking and issue notice and public comment as soon as possible.”

In addition to NPPA, the co-signees include a broad array of organizations and industries, from agriculture to real estate to photography, that recognize the benefits of UAS in particular for newsgathering purposes.

In addition to expediting the UAS rulemaking, the organizations urged the FAA to use its congressional authority to allow some limited UAS operations right away.

“We recommend the FAA use all available means, including Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, to allow for some limited UAS operations, subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s safety determination, before the small UAS rule is finalized,” the letter states.

“The current regulatory void has left American entrepreneurs and others either sitting on the sidelines or operating in the absence of appropriate safety guidelines. The recreational community has proven that community-based safety programming is effective in managing this level of activity, and we highly encourage the FAA to allow similar programming to be used to allow the small UAS industry to establish appropriate standards for safe operation. Doing so will allow a portion of the promising commercial sector to begin operating safely and responsibly in the national airspace.”

According to AUVSI’s economic impact study, the integration of UAS will create more than 100,000 new jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade following integration. NPPA’s Executive Director Charles (Chip) Deale commended the groups’ effort to advocate for a regulatory framework.

“It is unfortunate that the FAA has taken so long to address this issue in a commonsense and expedited manner and we urge Administrator Huerta to include our organization and other stakeholders in its rulemaking process,” Deale said.

The letter co-signees include: Aerospace States Association, Air Traffic Controllers Association, Airborne Law Enforcement Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’ Airports Council International – North America, American Association of Airport Executives, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Agronomy, American Soybean Association, Crop Science Society of America, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufactures Association, Helicopter Association International, International Society of Precision Agriculture, International Stability Operations Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Realtors, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Ski Areas Association, National Sunflower Association, North American Equipment Dealers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Realtors Land Institute, Soil Science Society of America and U.S. Canola Association

The full letter may be found at www.auvsi.org/AUVSI-AMA-Sign-On-Letter-To-FAA

Posted in Access, drone, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, UAS, Visual Journalists | 1 Comment »

NPPA Discouraged by SCOTUS Continued Refusal to Allow Cameras in Its Courtroom

March 25th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court continues to refuse to change its position on cameras in its courtroom.  The Coalition for Court Transparency recently sent a letter to the Chief Justice requesting him to reconsider the High Court’s longstanding policy barring audio-visual coverage of its proceedings. The Court’s Public Information Officer timely responded by saying “there are no plans to change the Court’s current practices” whereby they will continue to make audio recordings of all oral arguments available on the Court’s website “at the end of each argument week” and written transcripts of those arguments “on the same day the argument is heard.” r

NPPA Executive Director Charles W.L. (“Chip”) Deale, reacted to the Court’s letter by stating, “NPPA is grateful that the Supreme Court at least showed the courtesy of responding to a letter from the Coalition for Court Transparency (of which NPPA is a member) calling for cameras to be allowed during Court proceedings. However, the Court’s continued intransigence on this important issue is highly discouraging and, NPPA believes, a disservice to American citizens.  Via the Coalition, NPPA will continue to advocate for greater transparency by the Court.”

Responding for the Coalition, Bruce Brown of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, to whom the court’s letter was addressed, said: “I am appreciative that the Supreme Court responded to our coalition’s letter. I do believe that the smallest of changes to the court’s institutional practices would increase the public’s understanding of and appreciation for the court’s work. I hope that this marks the beginning of a dialogue between the court and those of us who care deeply about press freedom and increasing transparency at our most important judicial institution.”

Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director said, “RTDNA is very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s reluctance to even consider further our request to provide more transparency,” added .  “We firmly believe the actions taken by the Court are of sufficient importance and impact to all Americans to warrant providing video coverage of the arguments the Justices hear.”

As the Coalition stated in its letter to Chief Justice Roberts, “we believe the Supreme Court should embrace contemporary expectations of transparency by public officials and allow the recording and broadcast of its courtroom proceedings. Following Justice John Marshall Harlan’s concurrence in Estes v. Texas (1965), we believe the ‘day’ has long since passed ‘when television [has] become so commonplace an affair in the daily life of the average person as to dissipate all reasonable likelihood that its use in courtrooms may disparage the judicial process.’”

Posted in Access, Cameras in the Courtroom, Coalition for Court Transparency, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Open Government, OpenSCOTUS, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court | 14 Comments »

NPPA Joins Coalition for Court Transparency

February 18th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) announced that it had joined the Coalition for Court Transparency (CCT). Citing long lines outside the Supreme Court and the millions of Americans who are interested in, and affected by, the Court’s decisions but unable to see cases being argued, this new alliance of media and legal organizations from across the political spectrum today launched a television ad campaign calling on the justices to allow cameras to televise oral arguments.

The Coalition is taking the unprecedented step of using an ad campaign to draw attention to the lack of transparency in this powerful branch of government and to urge the Justices to change this outdated restriction.

“NPPA strongly believes in greater transparency at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Our support of the bipartisan coalition underscores our belief that the collective voice of CCT-member organizations ultimately can bring about the necessary changes in court policy,” said NPPA president Mark J. Dolan.

While Congress has debated bipartisan, bicameral bills intended to compel Supreme Court justices to allow cameras over the last 15 years, legal experts agree that the justices could simply decide today to allow cameras – and Monday’s cases regarding the Environment Protection Agency and its authority to address greenhouse gas pollution would be televised. In the past C-SPAN officials have stated that the station would broadcast all of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments if allowed.

Currently, to attend Supreme Court hearings, individuals must stand in line outside the building on First Street NE and wait to be ushered in. There are roughly 400 seats in the courtroom, so many people hoping to view the arguments are unable to, especially in cases that have broad public interest, such as the marriage equality, voting rights, and affirmative action cases last term and the campaign finance, recess appointments, and public prayer cases this term. For these types of cases, interested parties must often line up hours, if not days, in advance of the arguments and in some instances pay thousands of dollars to “line-standers” to hold their places for them.

In addition to NPPA, members of the Coalition for Court Transparency are: Alliance for Justice, American Society of News Editors, Constitutional Accountability Center, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Broadcasters, National Press Foundation, OpenTheGovernment.org, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society for Professional Journalists.

“As one element in our democracy’s system of checks and balances, the U.S. Supreme Court is a vital institution that increasingly is growing in importance.  As such, NPPA believes that citizens have a right to view broadcasts of the court’s oral arguments and announcements of its opinions on cases,” said NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale.

Despite the Supreme Court’s own reluctance on cameras, Americans have greater access to high-level judicial hearings elsewhere in the country. All 50 state supreme courts permit recording equipment to varying degrees, and on the federal level the Judicial Conference of the United States has placed cameras in 14 federal courts as part of a three-year, multi-district pilot program to study the effect of broadcasting federal court proceedings.

As the Voice of Visual Journalists since 1946, the NPPA has long advocated for cameras in the courtroom on the state and federal level as the lack of transparency erodes public confidence in the Court. Our general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, has written extensively about the subject and we believe the first way for the public to learn about and understand U.S. Supreme Court decisions is for citizens to be able to watch and hear those cases being announced by and argued before the court.

The ad, a 30-second television spot titled “Everywhere,” will run nearly 300 times in the Washington, D.C., market on cable news outlets over the next few weeks.   The Coalition also announced today that through its website, OpenSCOTUS.com, concerned Americans can sign an online petition calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to allow cameras in the Court.

“Everywhere” script

“The Supreme Court’s decisions impact the lives of Americans everywhere. But only a privileged few get to witness history and see justice in action. Leading Republicans and Democrats and a large majority of Americans support a simple fix – putting cameras in the Supreme Court. State and federal courts allow cameras in the interest of transparency. Shouldn’t our nation’s top court do the same? It’s time for a more open judiciary. It’s time for cameras in the Supreme Court. Find out more and take action at OpenSCOTUS.com.”

To view the ad, visit OpenSCOTUS.com.

For more information contact Mickey H. Osterreicher at 716.983.7800 or lawyer@nppa.org

For more information about the Coalition for Court Transparency, please contact CCT spokesperson Gabe Roth at 202-464-6919 (office), 312-545-8556 (cell) or groth@skdknick.com.

URL: http://www.OpenSCOTUS.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/OpenSCOTUS

Facebook: http://facebook.com/OpenSCOTUS

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/openscotus

Change.org petition:​ https://www.change.org/petitions/chief-justice-john-roberts-it-s-time-for-cameras-in-the-supreme-court-3

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Open Government, photographers, photojournalism, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court, Visual Journalists | 11 Comments »

Federal “Suspicious Activity” Reporting Initiative Threatens First Amendment Rights

September 20th, 2013 by Wills Citty 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 | 181 Comments »

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