March 12th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged Access, Arrest, California, conspiracy, dismiss charges, first amendment, Interest of Juctice, journalism, journalist, Legal, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, occupy wall street, OWS, photography, photojournalism, police, Reporters Committee, Santa Cruz, trespass, trespassing, vandalism
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DURHAM, NC — The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (Reporters Committee) filed a joint “Letter Brief” seeking the dismissal of charges against Bradley Stuart Allen in The People of the State of California v. Becky Ann Johnson et al, Case No. F22194. The brief asserts that Mr. Allen, who is a photojournalist and NPPA member, should not be criminally prosecuted for trespass, vandalism and conspiracy. He was charged after his photographic coverage of an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest in Santa Cruz, California last year.
Noting that the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom is meaningless if journalists do not possess a concomitant right to gather the news, the brief states that – while the allegedly violated statutes may serve important government interests, they cannot be exempt from First Amendment protection. Application of these laws in the prosecution of a journalist engaged in the constitutionally protected act of newsgathering demands careful balancing of these competing interests.
“While journalists may sometimes violate the letter of the law in order to obtain information of public concern, we believe it is extremely important for the court to also consider when such action occurs in the spirit and exercise of First Amendment rights,” said Sean D. Elliot, NPPA president. “Review of visual reportage subject to criminal penalties without that balance unfairly burdens newsgathering at its most critical need of protection,” he added.
This is just the most recent case where journalists have been interfered with and arrested while covering OWS protests throughout the country. In almost every case, those charges — ranging from disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration to trespass — have been dismissed or the defendant journalists have been acquitted.”
About the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
The NPPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism in its creation, editing and distribution. Since 1946, NPPA has vigorously promoted freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as that freedom relates to visual journalism.
For more information, contact Mickey H. Osterreicher at 716.566.1484 or go to www.nppa.org. You can also follow us on Twitter @nppa.
Posted in Access, Bradley Allen, Conspiracy, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Interest of Justice, law, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Santa Cruz, Vandalism | 3 Comments »
March 10th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged agricultural, Agricultural Property Release, agriculture, farm bills, iowa, journalism, NPPA, photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, recording, television, Utah, video, visual journalism
The first two in a series of so-called “Ag-Gag” bills has been enacted into law. The bills, different versions of which have been pending in over half a dozen states, target animal rights activists but frequently are written in broad language that impacts other lawful First Amendment activity.
Iowa was the first state to pass a bill, in early March, making access to an agricultural facility by “false pretenses” illegal. It was heavily amended from its original version. The introduced version of the bill would have made recording while on the farm without the consent of the owner a misdemeanor (and a felony for a second offense) and made mere possession of photographs or video resulting from the earlier act a crime. Thankfully, that version did not pass- it would have been easily found unconstitutional. To put this into perspective, the only other category of photography that is a crime to possess is child pornography. In fact, just a couple of years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to criminalize the possession of video depicting animal cruelty.
A bill making photography of farm operations without the consent of the owner illegal has passed in Utah. The Utah state senate passed HB 187 and it is headed to the governor for a signature. An amendment was made after the NPPA and several other groups protested the original language of the bill. The bill makes it a crime to photograph “agricultural operations” without consent of the owner.Â There was no distinction in the original version of the bill for private vs. pubic property, and the wording left open the possibility prosecution for photographing animals grazing on public lands. The bill was amended to clarify that “agricultural operations” is “private property” and passed with that language. However the bill is still problematic as it takes a crime- trespassing- and makes it subject to a greater punishment (a Class A misdemeanor vs. a Class B misdemeanor) because the added element of a First Amendment activity is involved.
A bill pending in New York, would criminalize the “unauthorized video, audio recording or photography done without the farm owner’s written consent.” Like certain proposals NPPA objected to in the last, there is not even a limitation in this bill that the photographer be trespassing. As written, it would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, or a fine of $1,000 to stand on the side of the road and photograph farm animals or farm.
Even bills which makes it a crime to take photographs on a farm while trespassing are problematic because an essential element of the crime is photography. It is a content-based restriction (with a specific list of what would be in the photograph that would convert an otherwise law abiding photographer into a criminal).
The application of these laws to photographic activity will be subject to constitutional scrutiny. NPPA will continue to monitor and oppose these bills as we have done in the past.
NPPA is drafting a model release for photographers in Utah and Iowa to bring to assignments on property that could be considered an agricultural operation, or otherwise subject to this law.
If you are aware of pending legislation that would affect photographers, please alert us at [email protected] or [email protected]
Posted in ag-gag, Cameras, contracts, First Amendment, Iowa, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording, Regulations limiting photography, Uncategorized, Utah, video cameras | 1 Comment »