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NPPA Replies to Comments Made by DCPI Browne Regarding “Mythical Arrests” of Journalists in NY

June 9th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , ,

The NPPA has sent a response to comments made by DCPI Paul Browne during an interview with NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens Chronicle Editor-in-Chief, Peter C. Mastrosimone.

See:

http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/kelly-talks-policy-and-politics/article_2671bf68-065f-5926-923f-0e6caedf25e2.html

As well as:

http://politicker.com/2012/06/nypd-spokesman-says-stories-of-reporters-arrested-at-occupy-raid-were-a-total-myth/.

The email:

Paul,

I read with disappointing disbelief your recent statement in the Queens Chronicle “that only one journalist was arrested during the operation, despite stories to the contrary,” which you called “a total myth.” I also found it incredulous that given our media coalition letter of November 21, 2011, which addressed the arrests of journalists in and around Zuccotti Park; and during our meeting with you and Commissioner Kelly on November 23, 2011, no one ever raised the issue that “Occupy Wall Street protesters were forging press credentials in an effort to get through the police lines.” To hear you now deny your department’s culpability by claiming that “actual reporters” were not arrested is an absolute revision of history and is more appropriate as part of “1984 Newspeak” than coming from the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information for the NYPD.

I will not get into the actual numbers of “journalists” arrested but suffice to say that many of those arrested have read your comments and find nothing “mythical” about what happened to them. I can also state, after having represented two NPPA members who were arrested and charged, that the court took judicial notice of the letters submitted on their behalf from Agence France Press and TV New Zealand when dismissing their disorderly conduct charges in the interest of justice. Even with updates to the Politicker story now acknowledging “two journalists” being arrested and assertions from Stu Loesser that “there’s no discrepancy” between his November statement that “five credentialed reporters” had been arrested, I would direct your attention to the facts found in the post – setting the record straight.

In a vain attempt to distinguish between real and “fake” journalists I would also suggest that the NYPD take note of the decision in Glik v Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Circuit, 2011) in which the court stated “that the First Amendment right to gather news is . . .  not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. Houchins, 438 U.S. at 16, 98 S.Ct. 2588 (Stewart, J., concurring) (emphasis added).

The court went on to say “changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.” I cite this case not for the proposition that NYPD cease issuing credentials (although I do have a problem with your onerous credentialing requirements) but for you to consider that your revision of what actually transpired sounds more like the archaic “outside agitators” claim than it does of someone with an understanding of evolving standards of media technology and social policies.

The point is there were far more than one or two journalists who were arrested, detained  or interfered with while trying to cover a matter of public concern. During our meeting in November you in no way suggested otherwise. Journalists should not be arrested for viewing or covering protests in public places as long as they do not interfere with police actions, whether or not they have credentials. Credentials, as your guidelines state, give those journalists additional access in certain circumstances but in no way should that warrant or justify the arrest of non-credentialed observers in a public forum.

While we greatly appreciate the Commissioner issuing his Finest message as a result of our November meeting it appears, given your comments, that there is much more that needs to be done. I take this opportunity to once again offer our expertise in helping to implement improved guidelines and training of officers regarding First and Fourth Amendments rights. I have recently done such training with the Washington DC Metro Police as well as the Chicago, Tampa and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Departments in preparation for the NATO Summit and the upcoming national political conventions in those cities. I personally observed the protests in Chicago and found that the police exercised incredible restraint in handling the protesters and those covering the protests and did not differentiate between credentialed and non-credentialed press in allowing access. As a result only one Getty photographer was arrested during three full days of (non-permitted) protests through the streets of downtown Chicago. Working with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press we were able to have the charges against him immediately reduced and expedite his release on bond.

If you and the Commissioner truly wish the new police academy to be the “West Point of law enforcement” I would strongly urge you to include the media in your training program rather than remain in a state of denial.

I look forward to continuing to strive together in an effort to improve police-press relations, the first step in which is keeping the facts straight.  Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Very truly yours,

Mickey H. Osterreicher
General Counsel
National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)

716.566.1484 (TEL)

716.983.7800 (CEL)
716.608.1509 (FAX)

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Posted in Commissioner Raymond Kelly, DCPI Paul Browne, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Mythical Arrests, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Politicker, Queens Chronical, Recording Police, Zuccotti Park | No Comments »



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