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    Press Groups Join in Letter of Complaint to the Vice President’s Press Office

    March 15th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) today joined with the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) in sending a letter to Ms. Kendra Barkoff, Press Secretary for the Office of the Vice President of the United States. The letter, signed by NPPA president Mike Borland, WHNPA president Ronald Sachs, and RCFP executive director Bruce Brown, was written in response to a March 12 incident in which a journalist covering an event featuring the Vice President in Rockville, Maryland, was ordered by a Vice Presidential staff member to delete all images of the event on his camera.

    As reported by the Capitol News Service, Jeremy Barr, a member of the Capitol News Service, a student-staffed news agency run by the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, covered an event discussing domestic violence held by Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. Barr stated that he “unknowingly sat in a section of the crowd designated as a non-press area” because “I didn’t see any demarcation that would have designated a press entrance versus a general entrance.” “The event began and I took a few photos of each speaker,” said Barr, as “people a few rows in front of me were also taking photos.”

    According to reports, after the event concluded Barr was approached by Vice Presidential staffer Dana Rosenzweig who asked Barr whether had taken any photos of the event. When Barr responded that he had taken photos, Rosenzweig demanded that Barr delete all images of the event from his iPhone while Rosenzweig watched, telling Barr that by sitting in the non-press area he had gained an unfair advantage over other members of the media who also attended the event. Barr complied with Rosenzweig’s request, stating that “I assumed that I had violated a protocol; I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was following proper procedures.” Rosenzweig then ordered Barr to wait while she informed her supervisor of the incident, and after a ten minute delay Barr was permitted to leave.

    Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, filed a formal complaint with the Vice President’s press office, stating that “this was pure intimidation,” and that “it’s clear from the circumstance that the journalist did nothing wrong.” Poynter reported that Dalglish stated in her complaint that “Rockville is not a third-world country where police-state style media censorship is expected.” Biden Press Secretary Kendra Barkoff apologized to Barr and Dalglish in separate phone conversations shortly after Dalglish’s complaint was filed. Barkoff told Dalglish that “the incident was a total miscommunication,” stressing that “it is never the press office’s policy to request that reporters delete photos.” Barkoff declined to speak about the incident on the record with the Capitol News Service, and calls to Rosenzweig were not returned.

    In the letter to Barkoff the NPPA, WHNPA and RCFP state that “while we commend your office for immediately apologizing . . . we do not believe that such a blatant violation of free press/speech rights protected under the First Amendment should pass without comment.” The letter goes on to cite a May 14, 2012 letter from the Department of Justice to the Baltimore Police Department from a similar case which stated that “Under the First Amendment, there are no circumstances under which the contents of a camera or recording device should be deleted or destroyed.”

    The NPPA, WHNPA and RCFP concluded the letter by commenting that “In order to ensure that situations like this one do not ever happen again . . . we would like to meet with members of your staff to discuss “event” coverage from your perspective and ours.” It is the NPPA’s hope that a meeting with the Vice President’s staff will better inform staff members as to the First Amendment rights of photographers and journalists, and will prevent future incidents such as this from occurring again.

    Posted in DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Student, Vice President Press Office, Visual Journalists, White House News Photographers Association, WHNPA | No Comments »

    NPPA/WHNPA Issue Joint Statement Protesting Use of Manipulated Image

    January 5th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , ,

    The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) joined with the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) in a statement protesting the manipulation of an official photograph made available for distribution by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office.

    The issue of the use of government hand out photos is something that press groups have been concerned with for sometime. The acknowledgment by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office that four Members of the House who arrived too late to be photographed in a group shot were “later photo-shopped in” stands as exhibit A in the dangers of using these photos. Those dangers are further exacerbated at a time when news organizations are cutting staff and relying more on unvetted user generated content while the government and other organizations are seeking to exercise more control over access and their images.

    A further review of the photo shows that not only were the four missing Congresswomen added but that the image was also manipulated to show other Congresswomen who were blocked in the original photo as well as redoing the hair of another. Rather than being a true and “accurate historical record” as the House Minority Leader stated in her defense of the use of the photo, the hand-out represents an example of the dangers in using a manipulated official photograph, thus undermining the public’s trust in visual images.

    The White House News Photographers Association is a 92-year-old not for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the efforts of Washington’s professional photojournalists. The National Press Photographers Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of photojournalism in its creation, editing and distribution.  NPPA’s almost 7,000 members include television and still photographers, editors, students and representatives of businesses that serve the photojournalism industry. Since its founding in 1946, the NPPA has vigorously promoted the constitutional rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as it relates to photojournalism.

    Posted in Handout Photo, Manipulated Image, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photojournalism, Photoshop, WHNPA | No Comments »