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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, 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 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 »

NPPA Joined by 32 Other Media Groups Urges Gov. Brown to Veto CA Anti-Drone Bill

September 3rd, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

Today the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to California Governor Jerry Brown urging him to veto SB 142, which would create strict liability for anyone operating a drone over the “airspace overlaying the real property” of another person or entity without “express consent.” The letter was joined by 32 other media organizations.

“We believe this bill will unduly restrict the development of new uses for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by establishing a technology-specific restriction that is impossible to comply with, impossible to enforce, and likely will conflict with the existing authority and proposed new regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, in the letter. He went on to say, “while the bill acknowledges the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, its language flies in the face of both common sense and federal preemption,” adding “the chilling legal repercussions of this bill will tax an overburdened court system and thwart the federal government’s efforts, in which we are participating, to bring about a sensible regulatory regime for this new technology.”

Those groups joining in the letter are: Advance Publications, Inc., American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, CNN, First Look Media, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation, KBAK-TV (Bakersfield), KERO-TV (Bakersfield), KGTV-TV (San Diego), KMPH-TV (Fresno), KXTV-TV (Sacramento), Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Merced Sun-Star, Newspaper Association of America, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Scripps Media, Society of Professional Journalists, Student Press Law Center, The Associated Press, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, The Fresno Bee, The McClatchy Company, The Modesto Bee, The Sacramento Bee, The Salinas Californian, The (San Luis Obispo) Tribune, Tulare Advance-Register and Visalia Times-Delta.

 

Posted in Access, broadcasting, California, drone, Drones, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Newsgathering, photographers, photojournalism | No Comments »

Judge Halts Enforcement of Unconstitutional Nude Photo Law in Arizona

July 10th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

PHOENIX – A federal court today permanently ordered Arizona state prosecutors to halt enforcement of a 2014 law restricting the display of nude images.

The order approved a joint final settlement between the Arizona attorney general and the coalition of plaintiffs which include the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Arizona booksellers, book and newspaper publishers, and librarians, who filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.

The order resolves all claims in the lawsuit, Antigone Books v. Brnovich, and states that plaintiffs are entitled to attorney’s fees.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of this case and our representation by our attorneys in this matter,” said Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale, NPPA Executive Director.

“This is a complete victory for publishers, booksellers, librarians, photographers, and others against an unconstitutional law,” said Media Coalition Executive Director David Horowitz, whose members include plaintiffs in the suit. “Now they won’t have to worry about being charged with a felony for offering newsworthy and artistic images.”

The law, Arizona Revised Statute 13-1425, was initially passed with the stated intent of combating “revenge porn,” a term popularly understood to describe a person’s malicious posting of an identifiable, private image online with the intent and effect of harming an ex-lover. But, as plaintiffs maintained in the lawsuit, the law wasn’t limited to revenge and criminalized far more than offensive acts. It could have led to the conviction of someone posting a nude photo with no intent to harm the person depicted. This would include, for example, an artistic photographer who creates an anthology of his images of nudes — as well as the book’s publisher, seller, or librarian.

As part of the lawsuit, NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher expressed fears in his declaration “that the NPPA’s members (including me) are at risk of prosecution under the Act simply for doing our job—the accurate and comprehensive reporting of the news. The Act would subject the NPPA’s members to prosecution for taking newsworthy, non-obscene photographs and videos, and either offering those photographs and videos for publication, or themselves publishing the photographs and videos through electronic or other media.” “With this very comprehensive settlement, that concern has now been alleviated,” said NPPA President Mark Dolan.

Likewise, a person who shared a photograph could have been charged with a felony even if the person depicted had no expectation that the image would be kept private and suffered no harm, such as a photojournalist who posted images of victims of war or natural disaster. As a result, the law applied to any person displaying an image of nudity, no matter how newsworthy, artistic, educational, or historic.

“This is an important vindication of the First Amendment and a great resolution for our clients,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Lee Rowland, who, along with lawyers from the ACLU of Arizona and Dentons US LLP, represents the plaintiffs. “We commend the state for agreeing not to enforce a broad statute that chilled and criminalized speech unquestionably protected by the Constitution.”

Dan Pochoda, attorney for the ACLU of Arizona, added: “We always believed that it would be a waste of the Arizona taxpayers’ money to continue defending this unconstitutional statute. We’re pleased that the court’s order means this law will not be enforced, all without additional and unnecessary litigation.” Today’s order is at: http://mediacoalition.org/antigone-books-v-brnovich/

The plaintiffs were: Antigone Books L.L.C.; Intergalactic, Inc., D/B/A, Bookmans; Changing Hands Bookstore, Inc.; Copper News Book Store; Mostly Books; Voicemedia Group, Inc.; American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression; Association Of American Publishers; Freedom To Read Foundation; and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

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

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