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NYPD Returns NY Times Photographer’s Press Credentials

August 23rd, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today (8/23/12) the New York Police Department (NYPD) returned the press credentials of a New York Times photographer who had his equipment and credentials seized following his arrest on August 4th.

Robert Stolarik, who was arrested on charges of obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest while photographing police activity on assignment, said, “My cameras were returned to me two weeks ago. Getting my gear back was the first step and now I have my credentials. The next part of this process will be getting the charges dropped.”

The return of his credentials was a result of the efforts by National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher and New York Times attorney George Freeman, who expressed his satisfaction with “such a great result.” Osterreicher who negotiated with NYPD legal staff said, “We are very appreciative that the NYPD reconsidered their position with regard to the return of Robert’s credentials but still believe it is unfortunate that they were taken in the first place and we will work very diligently to see that the charges are dismissed.” “We hope the department uses this incident as a teachable moment in improving police-press relations in NY,” Osterreicher added.

The return of the seized equipment on August 10, 2012 came days after the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne of the NYPD that objected to the rough treatment and arrest of Stolarik and requested that his equipment be returned to him.

Osterreicher also sent a letter to the editor which was published by the NY Times on that same Friday morning, in which among other things, the NPPA attorney urged “the New York Police Department to work with us to improve training and supervision for its members starting from the top down .”

Posted in Assault on Photographers, confiscated, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Press Credentials, Robert Stolarik | No Comments »

NYPD Return Seized Camera Equipment of N.Y. Times Photographer

August 13th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , , , ,

The New York Police Department (NYPD) on Friday returned the camera equipment of a New York Times photographer who had his equipment seized following his arrest on August 4th.

Robert Stolarik, who was arrested on charges of obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest while photographing police activity on assignment, said, “My cameras were returned to me on Friday at 3:30. Getting my gear back is the first step in returning to some normalcy. The next things for me will be getting the charges dropped and having my credentials returned to me.”

The return of the seized equipment came days after the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne of the NYPD that objected to the rough treatment and arrest of Stolarik and requested that his equipment be returned to him.

“Mr. Stolarik’s equipment and credentials must be returned immediately,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA, in his letter to the NYPD.  “We believe that the seizure and alleged destruction of his equipment not only violates his First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights but may be considered a form of prior restraint and a violation of the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, specifically enacted to protect against the search and seizure of a journalist’s work product.”

Osterreicher also sent a letter to the editor  which was published by the NY Times on that same Friday morning, in which among other things, the NPPA attorney urged “the New York Police Department to work with us to improve training and supervision for its members starting from the top down .”

Upon learning of the equipment’s return Osterreicher said, “While I am pleased that Robert has his cameras back, this incident, like so many others around the country should never have happened in the first place.” “Had officers just let him do his job this would be a non-story,” he added.

Today Stolarik met with officers from the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, who were following up on his complaint. That is also the reason that word of the equipment return was not announced until now. George Freeman, a lawyer for The Times, said “we hope the IAB will objectively investigate this case, because we are fully confident that if they look at the facts, they will find that the officers who blocked, intimidated and assaulted Mr. Stolarik acted inappropriately and violated NYPD guidelines.” He also added, “we hope that those officers ultimately will be disciplined not only to punish them for their wrongdoing, but also to send a well-needed message to the rest of the force that interfering and beating on the press while they are doing their jobs simply won’t be tolerated.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Cameras, DCPI Paul Browne, First Amendment, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Robert Stolarik | No Comments »

Lawsuit Targets San Diego Law Enforcement Agencies for First Amendment Rights Violations

August 10th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The American News and Information Services (ANIS) filed a Complaint Wednesday in federal district court seeking redress for the repeated violation of the First Amendment rights of an ANIS employee by San Diego City and County government officials.

The complaint alleges that San Diego law enforcement exhibited a pattern of First Amendment rights violations by giving law enforcement officers excessive discretion to prevent access to and recording of public safety activity.  It also alleges that the pattern is further evidenced by the San Diego Police Department’s (SDPD) exclusive authority to issue media credentials and the retaliatory actions taken against those who attempt to exercise their right to record.

“The SD Defendants, despite a revolution in access to news brought on by rapid technological advances, still seek through the use of government-issued press credentials control of the message through control of the messenger,” the complaint states.

James C. Playford, a National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) member who began work for ANIS after the SDPD refused to renew his press credentials, has been arrested four times since 2010 while attempting to cover public safety activities.  Three of those arrests resulted in the seizure of Playford’s equipment and raw video.  A photo and physical description of Playford was also allegedly disseminated to San Diego law enforcement identifying him as an individual prohibited from access to public safety activity.

San Diego law enforcement agencies have come under fire recently due to repeated arrests of photojournalists.  The NPPA sent a letter  to the SDPD and along with one from the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial County (ACLU) which they referenced on their website, requesting an end to police interference with photojournalists’ rights to record events occurring in public.  Wednesday’s letter was NPPA’s third letter to San Diego law enforcement this year concerning the rights of photojournalists.

“While the press may not have any greater access rights than the public to these incidents, they have no less rights either,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA, in his letter to the SDPD.  “Unfortunately a number of your officers have abused their discretion in limiting those press rights and then have detained and arrested our members when questioned about such discriminatory acts.”

In the most recent media controversy, NPPA member and freelance photojournalist Edward Baier was arrested on July 20th by the SDPD and charged with interfering with a police officer, though Baier claimed he was attempting to film from private property with the owner’s permission.  Baier said he was tackled by two officers during the altercation, causing him injuries requiring medical attention.

Baier’s arrest was his second this year by the SDPD.  In January, police told Baier to move away from the scene of a drowning, though the public was allowed to remain inside of the police tape.  When Baier protested, he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest.  The arresting officers later added two counts of assaulting an officer.

The NPPA sent a letter to the SDPD in January objecting to Baier’s arrest, and later sent a letter to the Office of the City Attorney requesting that Baier’s charges be dropped.

“The reliance by your officer to question, detain, interfere with, arrest and seize the property of someone engaged in a lawful activity under color of law is reprehensible,” Osterreicher said in his January letter to the SDPD.  “At best, behavior that chills free speech and unreasonably seizes property is extremely unprofessional, at worst it is criminal.”

Posted in Access, ACLU, ACLU of Dan Diego & Imperial County, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, confiscated, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording Police, San Diego Police Department, SDPD | No Comments »

Covering the Conventions and Protests

August 7th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

                                                            © 2012 Photo by Mickey Osterreicher

*** UPDATE 09-05-12 ***

Things to know while covering the DNC in Charlotte today

DNC on Wednesday: president arrives; new protests, closures

Charlotte Road Closures for Wednesday 9/5/12

*** UPDATE 09-04-12 ***

Here’s where you can park in Charlotte today

Charlotte Road Road Closures for Tuesday 9/4/12

*** UPDATE 09-03-12 ***

Charlotte Road Road Closures for Monday 9/3/12

First Lady to arrive in Charlotte on Monday

Details for CarolinaFest on Monday

*** UPDATE 09-02-12 ***

Two arrested during first DNC march of about 700 protestors in Charlotte

Security intensifying in Charlotte as DNC gets closer

 *** UPDATE 09-01-12 ***

Occupy Charlotte re-opens camp blocks from DNC at Marshall Park. Expect buses carrying protesters from Tampa and other cities to begin arriving this weekend.

 *** UPDATE 08-26-12 ***

Tampa Joint Information Center (JIC) Announcement #1

RNC cancels events in expectation of Isaac with tropical storm warning in effect. Driving rain & winds 39-73 mph tonight. Also expected – flooding and increased risk of tornadoes

 *** UPDATE 08-25-12 ***

Republican Convention in Tampa will convene on Monday and immediately recess due to Tropical Storm Isaac says Chair Reince Priebus on Saturday night,

Occupy Tampa events calendar for RNC in Tampa

Secret Service designated road closures for the RNC in Tampa begin today at noon and remain in effect thru 6 pm on 8/31/12

Tampa Police, ACLU team up for tips for RNC protesters and media

*** UPDATE 08-24-12 ***

Please use #Journarrest on Twitter to obtain the latest information about or to report an arrest of a journalist

Updated RNC Security Map

Click here for RNC Protest Information Updates

5,000 person protest march planned for Monday, 8/27/12 in Tampa

*** UPDATE 08-23-12 ***

Announcing a Guide to Reporting at the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Digital Media Law Project (which supports indy and online journalists) just released an amazing guidebook for reporting on the conventions. Everything from local laws to closed streets and prohibited items and resources for dealing with police and secret service… it’s a huge resource and should be really valuable

Media Logistics Briefing at the RNC for Credentialed Journalists – Media credentials, transportation, perimeter, operations and security to be discussed

Free Press – The Right to Record

Some Conventional Wisdom: Looking at the ’72 DNC in Miami Beach 40 Years After

*** UPDATE 08-22-12 ***

Severe WX: With the projected path of Tropical Storm Isaac expected to come close to Tampa make sure you bring foul weather gear 

RNC – Security Perimeter – Prohibited items. As stated on this site “As a condition of entry, the following items are inadmissible for safety and security reasons and will not be permitted within the security perimeter established for the 2012 Republican National Convention.” The “security perimeter” is the area controlled by the RNC and Secret Service. Proper credentials (delegates, media, etc.) will be required to enter that area.

It also appears that those entering the security perimeter with “Media” credentials will be exempt from the prohibition against:

Camcorders and cases, large cameras with lens (over four inches); Voice enhancement devices, such as bullhorn; Tripods for cameras; Backpacks or carry cases for binoculars, cameras.”

*** UPDATE 08-20-12 ***

RNC: Tampa Security Zone & Street Closures Map. Also RNC Security Plan Info 

DNC: Security Zone Maps:Vehicle restrictions around TWC ArenaPedestrian restrictions around TWC ArenaVehicle restrictions around BofA StadiumPedestrian restrictions around BofA StadiumRestrictions around government center complexRestrictions around Charlotte Convention Center

*** UPDATE 08-16-12 ***

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has Published its Hotline Numbers for both Conventions. Write these numbers down and keep them readily accessible. Do not just put them in your cellphone as that might be seized if your are arrested!!!!

Visual Journalists may also contact me by phone or text at 716-983-7800. I will be present at both conventions.

Republican National Convention, Tampa, FL

  • Hotline: 813-984-3076 or 813-984-3078
  • Legal Counsel: Thomas & LoCicero PL
  • Operation: The local hotline will remain open around the clock from Friday, Aug. 24 through the end of the convention

Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC

  • Hotline: 704-343-2063; backup numbers 704-904-5834 or 919-428-5883
  • Legal Counsel: McGuireWoods LLP
  • Operation: The local hotline will be in service 24 hours a day from Friday, Aug. 31 through the end of the convention

Overview

In preparation for the expected protests during the upcoming political conventions being held in Tampa, FL (Republican – August 27-30) and Charlotte, NC (Democratic – September 3-6) I have conducted training with the police agencies in both cities regarding 1st and 4th Amendment rights of citizens and journalists. It is our hope to avoid a repeat of the interference with and the arrest of journalists that occurred four years ago in Denver and St. Paul.

NPPA was also instrumental in working with the Chicago Police Department prior to and during the NATO Summit held in May. I provided training to about 200 supervisory officers in April that was well received and was out on the streets along with police, protesters and the media for three days of marches and rallies throughout the city.

If the NATO protests were any indication, then journalists covering events outside the conventions can expect that everyone–mainstream media, bloggers, citizen journalists, protesters, and bystanders–will have a camera of one kind or another. With the widespread proliferation of cellphone cameras, capable of recording high-quality images along with audio and video, it seemed like everybody was documenting everything and everyone.

Legal Issues

For journalists recording audio of any type there was a heightened concern in Illinois that police would be enforcing the state’s Eavesdropping Act, which criminalizes (with a possible sentence of 15 years in jail) audio recording of police officers performing official duties in a public place without their consent but fortunately in the case of ACLU v. Alvarez, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found the law to be unconstitutional only days before the start of the summit and granted a preliminary injunction against its enforcement. The Illinois State’s Attorney has indicated that she intends to appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.

In a similar case – Glik v. Cunniffe, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that individuals possess “a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties.” For those covering the Tampa convention, the Eleventh Circuit (which is controlling in Florida) also recognized a “First Amendment right . . . to photograph or videotape police conduct” in the 2000 case of Smith v. Cumming. And for those covering events in Charlotte, the law in the Fourth Circuit (which is controlling in North Carolina) is less settled, according to a 2009 one-page, unpublished per curium conclusory opinion in Szymecki v. Houck, that the “right to record police activities on public property was not clearly established in this circuit at the time of the alleged conduct.”

NPPA asserts that the right to observe and record police officers performing their duties in a public place is a recognized form of free speech through which the press and the public may gather and disseminate information on matters of public concern. First Amendment protections regarding such activity, while not absolute, may only be limited by reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, the courts ruled in Glik and Smith.

But the “reasonableness” of a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction is often in the eyes of the beholder. Police issuing an order to disperse may expect everyone including those with cameras to leave the area while journalists may believe that moving back or out of the way constitutes compliance.

Local Ordinances

Both Tampa and Charlotte have established security zones (see Tampa Secret Service info) around their respective convention centers. Those ordinances also ban a long list of items deemed to be potential weapons, so journalists who might come prepared with gas masks may find they are violating the new restrictions by carrying one. Also prohibited from places designated as “public viewing areas” are: “sticks, poles, ladders, monopods, bipods, and tripods.” These cities have also established “free speech zones,” where permitted marches may take place and speakers may address the public. It is also important to note that many of the streets in Charlotte that appear to be public are actually privately owned by many of the banks in that city, which may further complicate the right to record.

Federal Trespass

Another concern will be the enforcement of H.R. 347 also known as “The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,” which was signed into law in March, making it a federal offense to cause a disturbance at certain events. More specifically, anyone who trespasses on specified property or at times and locations “so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance” may be prosecuted and subject to a fine or imprisonment or both. Both conventions have been designated a “National Special Security Event” by the Department of Homeland Security.

Under this “trespass bill” anyone “knowingly” entering a restricted area under Secret Service control who “engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct” or “who, with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds; or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished” accordingly. The bill also creates a floating bubble of protection around the president and other dignitaries, so although those covering the protests may be outside of the designated zones, they may still fall under the ambit of the law.

Other Resources

NPPA has also been working with a number of other organizations including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The RCFP has recently made available a mobile app for reporters that, according to its website, “gives reporters in the field immediate access to legal resources, particularly in situations where newsgathering or access may be stymied.” They also have a handbook entitled “Police, Protesters and the Press” available for free download. Additionally the Reporters Committee has partnered with prominent law firms in Tampa and Charlotte to assist “journalists who may be impeded or arrested” in those cities while covering the news. As I did in Chicago I have been working with the lawyers at Thomas & LoCicero in Tampa and McGuireWoods LLP in Charlotte. These firms will be providing free 24-hour legal assistance through a hotline available for journalists covering events in those cities. The RCFP main hotline number is 800-336-4243. Write important numbers down on your arm or another easily viewed part of your body so you have them if you need them.

It might also be informative to look at a recent study of human rights violations by police against those covering OWS as well as a story about a settlement in a federal lawsuit by a journalist who was arrested during the 2009 G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

Important Items

Important items to always have with you: government-issued photo I.D. (i.e. valid driver’s license), press credential(s) or press identification card(s) (if you have any), credit card(s) and some cash (in case you need to post bond). For its members NPPA also has available for purchase a “Member ID” which some have found a useful form of identification.

Potential for Arrest

When covering demonstrations, protests, marches and rallies you should be aware that there is a risk of arrest. Just because you may be a journalist, have a camera or believe that you have a lawful reason for being present to observe, document and report on these events does not provide immunity from being arrested along with those participating in these events. For example do not expect that you will be able to cross or walk through police lines. If you need to do so it is always advisable to seek permission before acting.

Complying with Police Orders

If a police officer orders you to move it is advisable to comply with the request. How far you move is something that you will have to decide for yourself. If you believe that the order is not a reasonable one, ask to speak to a supervisor or the public information officer if that is possible. It is important to be very aware that most police officer do not like to be questioned or challenged once they have told you to do (or not do) something and a mere hesitation, question or request may result in your detention or arrest. Only you can make that judgment call as to what to do. Every situation is different as is every police officer’s reaction to your behavior. For the most part officers have been trained to respond in an appropriate manner, but given that we all have different personalities and the fact that they may be standing out in the summer heat for many hours, sometimes in helmets and riot gear you should not necessarily count on them to be as reasonable as you might like.

Being Questioned or Detained

If you are questioned or detained remember to remain calm and act professionally. Do not get into an argument about your rights. If you are able to have a reasonable discussion that is one thing but if it becomes apparent that the officer is not interested in your point of view it is usually best to move on. Discretion is the better part of valor. If you are told that you are not free to leave or under arrest it is strongly advised that you immediately do what you are told. Officers deem anything less than full compliance as resisting arrest and will then escalate the force they believe is necessary to effectuate that arrest. That means you may be forcibly thrown to the ground, set upon by more than one officer and have your equipment broken in the process. This may occur not matter how compliant you are, but it best to cooperate to the fullest extent possible. It is also important that you identify yourself as a journalist as often as possible so there is no question who you are or what your purpose was in being there. At the first appropriate moment request that a commanding officer or the PIO be notified that a journalist is being detained or has been arrested.

Your Files

While covering these events police may ask to see your images, recordings or files. Be aware that you do not have to consent to such a request. They may try to intimidate, coerce or threaten you into doing so but “consent” must be voluntary. You should know that absent consent or “exigent circumstances” an officer may not seize your camera. Exigent circumstances only exist where an officer has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed AND that you have captured evidence of that crime on your camera AND that there is also a strong likelihood that such evidence may be lost if the camera is not seized. This last element should be difficult if not impossible to satisfy given that the main purpose of a journalist is to gather and disseminate information and images.  Even when police do seize a camera they cannot view its contents without a proper warrant. There have been other instances where police have ordered journalists to delete files or have exercised self-help by deleting those files themselves. According to the Department of Justice “under the First Amendment, there are no circumstances under which the contents of a camera or recording device should be deleted or destroyed” (emphasis added).

For many of the reasons listed above it is very important that journalists work in pairs or groups so that someone may be able to notify those of us working to protect your rights that you have been arrested or are in police custody. Another suggestion is that, to the extent possible, start recording events before a situation becomes a problem and continue to record for as long as possible. Such recordings may be the best evidence to refute whatever you may be charged with.

Also be aware that many police agencies will be working at these events. The Secret Service, FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will all have a presence as will the state police along with local city and county agencies. Each has an area of jurisdiction and each may be tasked with enforcing certain laws and ordinances. Just because you receive permission from one officer does not mean that another officer only a few feet away may deny that request. Don’t expect things to make perfect sense. Try to be flexible, creative and patient while covering these situations.

Arrest & Release

If you are arrested it is crucial to remember that anything you say may be used against you and possibly lead to additional charges. Saying you are a journalist is one thing. Talking about what happened is another. The charges against journalists arrested in these situations are usually misdemeanors, violations or infractions. Such charges may include but are not limited to: disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, trespassing, unlawful assembly, disturbing the peace, failure to follow a police order and obstruction. If you are arrested expect to be handcuffed behind your back (with traditional metal handcuffs or plastic zip-tie cuffs). You will also have to be processed, which includes having your fingerprints and photograph taken and your personal information such name, address, age,  date of birth and social security number run through a national computer check for any previous criminal record or outstanding wants (other law enforcement agency looking for you) or warrants.

Once that process is complete (which may take hours depending on the number of those arrested and the number of officers assigned to booking) and depending on the charges bail will be set. Bail acts as a monetary guarantee that you will return for further court proceedings. Sometimes you may be released in your own recognizance (no money required) but that is unlikely if you are from out-of-town. In most you may be able to post a bond (another form of bail) or have someone do that for you.

The type of bond most often used for the types of charges listed above is known as a Signature or I-Bond. Such a bond requires that you post a minimal amount of money (i.e. $75.00 – $200.00) by cash or credit card.  It is very important that you receive and securely keep your bond receipt because it usually contains all the information for your next court appearance including the date and location. You will also need that receipt in order get your money back once your case has been adjudicated. If you fail to appear in court the money posted will be forfeited to the court, an arrest warrant will be issued and once found you may be arrested again.

Practical Advice

In terms of practical advice, aside from looking for great images make sure you maintain “situational awareness” or in simpler terms – know what is going on around you and how it might affect your safety. Not only is it important to be aware of what the police are doing but after this past May Day demonstration where journalists were attacked by those who did not want to be photographed or just did not like the main stream media you should also keep an eye on those who might wish to cause you harm. See the Anarchist News posting.

It is very important to pay attention to your gut instinct and always look toward having a safe way out of the crowd. Once again, I would strongly recommend working in pairs or in a group so that you can watch each other’s backs (it is easy to get tunnel vision when your eye is up to the viewfinder). This also will help should you be injured or arrested and are unable to notify anyone of your situation. Fortunately for Getty’s Joshua Lott, he was with Scott Olson who immediately reported Josh’s arrest and we (the attorney for the RCFP and me) were able to immediately contact the Chicago Police, get the initial felony charges of mob-action reduced to the misdemeanor reckless conduct and obtain his release a short time later.

Training for law enforcement officers has included advice regarding the rights of journalists and the directive that they are not to be interfered with so long as they do not violate the law, create a safety hazard or interfere with police operations. While identifying yourself as a journalist may reduce the likelihood of arrest or help speed your release the best practice is to avoid being caught-up in a mass arrest by remaining near the edge of any large demonstration and also leaving yourself an avenue of escape if needed.

Preparation

It goes without saying that it will be hot in Tampa at the end of August and not much cooler in Charlotte during the first week in September. Stay hydrated. Have plenty of water with you (also be on the lookout for places where they will be providing free bottles of water). Stay in the shade when possible.

Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Dress neatly – if you don’t want to be confused with the protesters try to find a way to not look like them. Wear sunglasses and a hat. Apply sunscreen liberally and often. Watch out for fire ants if you do sit down anywhere outside. Be aware of the weather and check weather reports. Aside from it being hurricane season, thunderstorms are a common occurrence so watch out for lightening.

You may also consider purchasing a plastic insert for the inside of a baseball hat which will keep the sun off your head and provide some protection “against lacerations, bumps and scrapes to the head area.”

There is some debate about wearing vests or hats with PRESS written in large type. On one hand it leaves no doubt about your purpose but on the other may make you a target. The one thing you should do is clearly display your press credentials or ID’s if you have them.

Other items you may wish to have with you are eye protection and something to cover your nose and mouth with such as a surgical or painters mask. Of course sometimes wearing a mask will bring you extra police scrutiny but if the police have already deployed OC spray or other crowd control agents the benefit of the mask might well outweigh the downside. If you wear contact lenses consider going back to wearing glasses for the time you are out covering the protests. See How to prepare for OC Spray.

Your Equipment

Visual journalists carry equipment ranging from a cellphone camera or a simple point-and-shoot to high-end digital cameras, Betacams, laptops and other gear worth thousands of dollars. No matter what you use, the equipment is essential to doing your job and its safety and security should be of utmost importance to prevent it from becoming damaged, lost, stolen or seized.

For those who use Apple products, make sure that you activate the tracking and auto-lock features on their iPhones and iPads. Also be sure to write down the description and serial numbers of all your equipment and devices and store that list in a safe but easily accessible place in order to file a complete police report and to expedite recovery if they are stolen.

As for camera equipment, some also suggest being well connected to your gear using “Sun Sniper” straps that have steel cables running through them.

Also make backups of all your important files and keep it on a remote computer or USB drive which you have stored in a safe and secure place. Consider using the Cloud or similar remote storage for these files as well for livestreaming of your images in case your camera is lost, stolen or seized by police. For more info on staying safe read Poynter.

Conclusion

Police in Chicago exercised considerable restraint in allowing protesters to move into non-designated areas and did not interfere with non-permitted marches. The Chicago police also did not distinguish between credentialed and non-credentialed journalists when allowing access to most public places and, except for arresting a Getty photographer, did not interfere with those taking pictures, recording video, or livestreaming events. Given that command staff from both the Tampa and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police departments were present in Chicago to observe, it can only be hoped that they will take the same reasonable approach in dealing with these issues.

If you get into trouble or have questions about certain situations please feel free to contact me by email at [email protected] or by text or cellphone at 716.983.7800. For more information and links to reference material click here:

DISCLAIMER – This blog is not intended to be legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. It is not possible to anticipate every situation. Laws and regulations vary from one area to another and federal, state or local laws may apply. Anyone seeking legal advice should contact an attorney in their area of the country familiar with criminal and First Amendment Law.

Posted in Access, ACLU v Alvarez, Assault on Photographers, broadcasting, Cameras, cell phone cameras, Chicago, Chicago Police, Democratic National Convention, Department of Justice, Exigent Circumstances, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, FL, Florida, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Glik v Cunniffe, Illinois, Illinois Eavesdropping Law, National Press Photographers Association, NC, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, U.S. Secret Service, video cameras | No Comments »

You and Your Camera as One – In Your Heart and In the Eyes of the Law

July 12th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , ,

As assaults on photographers by citizens and the police have steadily increased in the past couple of years, it is important that you as a photographer know what your rights are if you are involved in one of these incidents.

A recent example of these altercations comes out of New York, where actor Alec Baldwin shoved photographer Marcus Santos outside of the Marriage Bureau.  Santos later filed a complaint with the New York Police Department.  Alec Baldwin claims that he didn’t punch Santos, and in an interview with David Letterman Baldwin claims that he was in fact only hitting the camera, not the photographer.

The truth of the matter is that Baldwin’s actions could have constituted battery without his ever laying a finger on Santos.  The rule in a majority of states in the country is that a person’s body need not be physically harmed to bring a claim of battery.  If unwanted and intentional contact occurs with something that is closely connected to the body such that it could be considered part of the plaintiff’s person, that contact can be treated as battery.

This can include a camera in one’s hand or around one’s neck.  In fact in one case in Rhode Island, a woman was awarded damages for assault and battery after her mechanic, who she took a picture of when she didn’t like the job he did, admitted to placing his hand on the camera that she was holding in an attempt to stop her from taking his picture.  Any unwanted touching of your camera can give rise to a lawsuit just as if your body was assaulted.  The law accords you a right to personal space and that personal space can be disturbed through physical harm, or simply through touching deemed offensive or violative of personal dignity.

If your camera is physically interfered with while in your possession, know that you may not only have the right to bring a civil suit for damages, but that the aggressor may also be criminally liable.

As photographers we often consider our cameras as extensions of ourselves.  We should take comfort knowing the law is in agreement.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Assault on Photographers, Cameras, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, Street Photography, video cameras | No Comments »

NPPA General Counsel Speaks on Photojournalism Issues at National Press Club

June 28th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , , ,

Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), spoke at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, D.C. on June 27, 2012 where he warned NPC members of ongoing issues concerning copyright infringement and the assault on the right to photograph in public places.

“It’s vital for citizens and journalists to know their rights when taking pictures or recording in public places. It’s even more crucial that police departments have appropriate policies and continuously train their officers regarding those rights,” Osterreicher said following the speech.

Osterreicher, who spoke to the NPC last January on a similar topic paid particular attention to the increasing prevalence of police interfering with the rights of the public and the media to photograph in public places.  He noted that there have been a growing number of arrests of citizens and photographers who take pictures, particularly those who have documented activist gatherings such as the Occupy protests.

Osterreicher attributed the increase in these incidents to the widespread proliferation of cameras and smartphones, which make it possible for anyone to photograph and record matters of public concern and then provide that material to the rest of the world via the Internet.  He said that police nationwide have shown a reluctance to allow such documentation, and have often responded with hostility and threats of arrest.

“I think it’s the culture of the police,” Osterreicher said.  “Their idea of serve and protect often means protecting people  and other officers from having their pictures taken.”

The NPPA has come to the defense of many of these photographers, both professional and amateur, because of its belief that government officials should never be left to determine what is or is not a newsworthy picture or story. The organization urges offending police departments to drop charges and to adopt policies that do not interfere with the public’s right to photograph.

Osterreicher talked about training sessions he has held with several police departments on how to interact with the press,  his work with the Chicago Police and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press during the NATO Summit and his preparations for the upcoming national political conventions.

He said he offers this service whenever he writes to police departments that have had incidents with photographers. “People ask me ‘Why do you write so many letters?'” Osterreicher said. “Well, the answer is that it’s cheaper than bringing a lawsuit.  It’s cheaper for everyone, but as the police so often say ‘we can do this the easy way or the hard way,’ I think that a letter is the easy way but in some recently filed lawsuits NPPA has provided support against those departments and officers who blatantly violated our members’ constitutional rights.”

Osterreicher also spoke about instances in which police have taken cameras and phones and deleted photos or compelled the person who took the photos to do so.  He reminded members of the NPC that under no circumstances do officers have the right to delete or destroy photographs or video.

Osterreicher said that he is hopeful that incidents like these decline once police are educated and trained regarding the rights of the press and public to photograph and record.

“The police aren’t going anywhere.  The media isn’t going anywhere.  We need to find a way to do our jobs without interference.”

 

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Cameras, cell phone cameras, Chicago Police, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, video cameras | No Comments »

Photojournalist or Paparazzo? A Distinction with a Difference

June 21st, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All paparazzi are photographers.

But not all photographers are paparazzi.

The problem is that in a time of catchy phrases, it seems that many media outlets are unable or unwilling to take the time to distinguish between the two.

In the aftermath of actor Alec Baldwin’s assault on photographers who were waiting for him on a public street outside the New York City Marriage License Bureau this week, the distinction between the use of the pejorative “paparazzi” as a way to denigrate members of the media is not only unfortunate, but does a disservice to all photographers and journalists who strive to earn a living through visual storytelling.

As a former photojournalist with almost 40 years of experience in both print and broadcast journalism, I strongly believe in personal accountability for our actions and the importance of maintaining the credibility of our profession. I also agree that “accuracy in our work and integrity in our relationships with the public we serve are essential qualities for all photojournalists.” It is for that reason that I am a strong proponent of the NPPA Code of Ethics, which “attempts to foster the spirit of honesty in all aspects of our professional lives.”

In this era of tweets and live-streaming it is certainly important to get the news out fast, if not first; but accuracy should still be the overriding priority. Broadcasting or publishing the absolute latest information does not absolve the press of its obligation to be responsible. The public may wish to dwell in gossip and speculation but reporters, broadcasters, editors and publishers should not.

Which brings us back to the issue of who is a photojournalist and who is a paparazzo? A variety of sources define paparazzo as a noun referring to a freelance photographer who specializes in images of famous people for sale to magazines and newspapers while often invading their privacy to obtain such photographs or video. The word “paparazzi” is the plural of “paparazzo.”

The term gained popularity after the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini, in which one of the characters is a news photographer named Signor Paparazzo. It is said that Fellini used the word because in Italian it is similar to another word for small mosquito, and to the filmmaker was descriptive of the very annoying noise made by that buzzing insect. In the years since it has been used to describe Ron Galella and his photographic pursuit of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, leading to the case of Galella v Onassis and a restraining order keeping Galella a “respectful” distance away from the late First Lady and her children.

Over the years there have been numerous lawsuits by photographers who claim they were injured by celebrities, and some by celebrities who have sued to enjoin photographers from coming too close or invading their privacy.

The term “photojournalist,” on the other hand, refers to those dedicated to a specific aspect of journalism that captures still images and audio-visual recordings for public dissemination in print, by broadcast or online. It is widely understood that photojournalists adhere to strong ethical guidelines ensuring honest, objective and compelling images, created in a straightforward manner while remaining as unobtrusive as possible.

Standing on a sidewalk to take a picture of a celebrity does not make a photographer a paparazzi any more than if he or she were waiting to take a picture of a politician or a criminal. Photojournalists often risk their lives and sometimes are killed while covering wars, political uprisings and natural disasters. Would anyone think to call them paparazzi?

The so-called “legitimate press” has always sought to distinguish itself from the less-than-savory “tabloid paparazzi.” Lately traditional publishers also attempt to distinguish between “mainstream media” and citizen journalists, activists, and bloggers. But all groups use video and still images taken by the very people they distance themselves from in an attempt to compete which blurs the line and makes the definition of who is a journalist even more elusive. This in turn makes the public less trusting and ultimately undermines a free and vibrant press.

None of this absolves anyone of us from our responsibilities. No matter how quickly we deliver it, the message should still be worth hearing. No matter how up-close we can get, the images should still be worth viewing. No matter how advanced the technology, we are all still human.

When reporting on the altercation between New York Daily News photographer Marcus Santos and celebrity Alec Baldwin, it would be wise to look at Santos’ career before labeling him as a paparazzo. According to his website he has been a photojournalist since the late 1990’s with a long list of credits and awards. He prides himself on covering spot news, which is evidenced by his photos of the October, 2011 East River helicopter crash. He has also covered world events in Haiti, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Marcus tells me that he was dispatched by the Daily News to photograph Baldwin after the paper received a tip that he was at the marriage license bureau. So for anyone to say he is a paparazzo is not only grammatically incorrect, but totally inaccurate. In an interview with Charlie Rose after the incident, Baldwin also said that Marcus was not part of the “legitimate press” in a further attempt to justify his actions that day. Such self-serving comments are not only wrong but demean all photojournalists.

In a society increasingly reliant on information and communication, those in the media should be ever vigilant of their obligation to provide accurate, unbiased and timely information rather than rushing to fill space and time with the latest titillating revelations. That goes both for photojournalists who unintentionally get drawn into the story and for the journalists, editors and headline writers who report on those incidents.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Code of Ethics, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NY Daily News, Paparazzi, Paparazzo, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | 8 Comments »

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