Search

Media Groups Join NPPA to Protest Police Mistreatment of Press During NYC – OWS Protests

November 21st, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

New York – The National Press Photographers Association was joined by several media organizations and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a letter to the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Paul J. Browne, to protest police mistreatment of the the media during the Occupy Wall Street protests last week. The strongly worded letter drafted by NPPA general Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher along with New York Times vice president and assistant general counsel, George Freeman, pointed out that “credentialed media were identified, segregated and kept away from viewing, reporting on and photographing vital matters of public concern. A press pen was set up blocks away and those kept there were further prevented from seeing what was occurring by the strategic placement of police buses around the perimeter. Moreover, there have been numerous instances where police officers struck or otherwise intentionally impeded photographers as they were taking photos, keeping them from doing their job and from documenting instances of seeming police aggression.”

The letter outlines several specific incidents in which members of the media were physically assaulted by police. It also describes how members of the media were ordered to leave public areas, stripped of their credentials, threatened with arrest, detained and arrested.

During an August 2011 meeting Browne had promised to review previous media complaints regarding other incidents involving police interference with the media and his agreement to consider additional training to reinforce media guidelines, for newer officers on the force.  Browne had agreed at the time that additional training for officers would be beneficial. The media representatives who authored the letter expressed their belief  “that had such agreed upon training occurred, it may have helped avoid the numerous inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, actions and abuses the police heaped upon both credentialed and non-credentialed journalists in the last few days.”

A companion letter was sent by the New York Civil Liberties Union to New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg making similar complaints. Both groups have asked for a meeting with the police in order to address these issues.

Read the complete letter here:DCPI Letter – Signed 11-21-11

Update:

See articles by the New York Press Club. and the Associate Press.

 

Posted in broadcasting, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Legal, mass media, multimedia, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, NYPD, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, video cameras | 2 Comments »

NPPA Commends CCR in Settlement of a Federal Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Arrested Journalists

October 4th, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher

Given the rash of recent incidents involving the arrest of citizens and journalists around the country, NPPA commends the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) for the agreement they have obtained on behalf of journalists in Goodman, et al. v. St. Paul, et al. We agree with  CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy, who said the settlement “sends an important message to police departments all over the country . . . that failure to respect the constitutional rights of citizens and journalists may expose municipalities to serious liability.”

The terms of the settlement include compensation of $100,000 for the three named journalists as well as an “agreement by the St. Paul police department to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations—including police handling of media coverage of mass demonstrations—and to pursue implementation of the training program in Minneapolis and statewide.” Written proposals for these programs, which must be approved by the Plaintiffs and their lawyers are expected to be submitted by the end of the year.

The lawsuit was filed on May 5, 2010 in the United States District Court in the District of Minnesota by the Center for Constitutional Rights and pro bono attorneys Steven Reiss from Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP in New York and Albert Goins of Minneapolis on behalf of three “Democracy Now!” journalists, Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, against federal and local law enforcement agencies. The defendants in the lawsuit were: the City of St. Paul, the City of Minneapolis, the County of Ramsey, St. Paul police chief John Harrington,  Minneapolis police chief, Timothy Dolan, Ramsey County Sheriff, Bob Fletcher, an unidentified U.S. Secret Service agent and multiple unidentified law enforcement officers. The matter arose  during the 2008 Republican National Convention, where it was alleged that law enforcement agencies targeted journalists in violation of their Constitutional rights and subjected the journalists to unlawful arrest, unlawful search and seizure and unreasonable use of excessive force. All charges were later dismissed.

The complaint also alleged that “by arresting, assaulting, and detaining Plaintiffs and other members of the press, law enforcement significantly hindered Plaintiffs’ ability to . . . report on vital matters of public concern     . . .  and the conduct of law enforcement personnel . . . .”  According to reports “scores of journalists and other members of the media were arrested, detained, assaulted and searched. Their belongings were also seized and searched, including their cameras, video and other media equipment. The journalists prominently displayed their press credentials throughout the incidents and repeatedly identified themselves as members of the media to the acting law enforcement.”

NPPA commends CCR for its strong stance in protecting the rights of journalists. We expect that the terms of the settlement in this case will send a strong message to law enforcement agencies around the country. The recent and continuing conduct by law enforcement agencies in harassing, detaining, interfering with and in some cases arresting citizens and journalists engaged in constitutionally protected  activities  under color of law must cease. In each of these cases NPPA has requested that the offending police agency implement proper policies, procedures and guidelines as well as training for officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public.

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras, confiscated, Democarcy Now!, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, law, Legal, Minneapolis Police, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Search and Seizure, St. Paul Police, U.S. Secret Service, video cameras, violating | No Comments »

Milwaukee Veteran Photojournalist Was Obeying Police When Arrested

September 20th, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , ,

Click here for video

Police in Milwaukee arrested 68-year-old videographer Clint Fillinger, a former NPPA member,  at a fire scene, even as the photographer was following a police officer’s illegal orders to move back while other members of the public were allowed to stay.

Fox 6, the television station where the journalist works reports that Fillinger “was shooting video behind yellow police tape alongside a small crowd that gathered to watch” when he was approached by the officer and ordered to move back. According to the station, the photographer put his hand up in a defensive manner as the officer was forcing him to move backwards, when he accidentally touched the officer and Fillinger was knocked to the ground, suffering bruises, and arrested. He was cited for resisting and obstructing an officer.

The station’s management has complained to the police department and the NPPA has also sent a formal letter of complaint to the department protesting the arrest. NPPA’s general counsel, Mickey Osterreicher cited the fact that the arrest violated the department’s own policies and added:

While in some situations the press may have no greater rights than those of the general public, they certainly have no less right of access on a public street. Sgt. Thomas Heinz pretextually stated he has moving Mr. Fillinger “for his own safety” yet did not see fit to move any other persons back or to move the previously established police/fire lines….


NPPA stands ready to work with your department to help develop reasonable and workable policies and practices in order to avoid similar situations. If your department’s vision is for “Milwaukee to be a place where all can live safely and without fear, protected by a police department with the highest ethical and professional standards;” we would respectfully request you commence a full and impartial investigation of this incident and bring disciplinary action against these officers if necessary. Additionally we request that all charges against Mr. Fillinger be immediatley dropped.

More details on the arrest can be found at Fox 6’s website:

For the full text of Osterreicher’s letter to the Milwaukee police department, follow this link: Milwaukee Police Letter 09-20-11

********** UPDATE ***************

On September 21, 2011, Milawuakee Police Chied Edward Flynn spoke to the media and among other things blamed the 68 year-old news photographer’s failure to compy with the officer’s request as the cause of the incident. The NPPA responded with a second letter sent today.

********** UPDATE ***************

September 23–

Two additional groups, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and the Wisconsin News Photographers Association have also protested the arrest. Read the letters below.

 

 

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Milwaukee Police, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, video cameras, violating | 1 Comment »

Seventh Circuit Rules: States May Restrict Broadcasting of Publicly Sponsored Sporting Events

August 25th, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

In a long awaited ruling, the Seventh Circuit on Wednesday held that the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) was within its rights to grant exclusive broadcast rights to a private commercial vendor and to charge news organizations a fee for the right to broadcast games. The court held that such arrangements do not run afoul of the First Amendment.

Addressing only the issue of the broadcasting of the entire event, the court held that a sporting event was a “performance” and the right to broadcast an event in it’s entirety is a proprietary right that a governmental entity may exercise. The case, WIAA v. Gannett began when The Appleton Post-Crescent, a Gannett newspaper, broadcasted several state championship football games online in their entirety, believing that it was within their First Amendment right to do so. The WIAA sued.

The court first rejected the notion that this case was a copyright case and then proceeded to make intellectual property analogies to the sporting events, repeatedly calling the sporting events “performances,” (performances are protected by copyright) and comparing sporting events to concerts, plays and patents, all of which have protectable intellectual property elements. No court has ever held that a sporting event is a copyrightable performance, and this court did not either. A sporting event is not a work of authorship like a concert or a play. While the court fell short of explicitly holding that a sporting event has intellectual property rights, it basically upheld the assertion of intellectual-property-like rights by the WIAA (while insisting that no intellectual property rights were involved). The underlying basis for the court’s holding was the Supreme Court case of Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard, which held that a television station misappropriated the property of a human cannonball performer by broadcasting the performance in its entirety.

A bright spot in the ruling is that the Seventh Circuit rejected the lower court’s finding that sports reporting deserves less First Amendment protection than political reporting, and held that “[t]here is no basis for a rule that makes the press’s right to coverage depend on the purported value of the object of their coverage.” This is a win for the First Amendment.

Importantly, the ruling is limited to the single issue of whether or not the media has a First Amendment right to broadcast an entire event sponsored by a state actor. But the reasoning is broad enough to be interpreted to support a multitude of restrictions. For example, within the restrictions imposed by the WIAA under the exclusive broadcast agreement, news organizations don’t have a right to “live blog” the events. The court took no issue with that aspect of the exclusive agreement, leaving the live blog restrictions in tact.

The court specifically didn’t address issues in the conflict related to still photography, such as reprint sale restrictions, because they were not raised by the parties on appeal.

It will not be surprising if this case is followed by further restrictions on coverage of government events. The fear is that municipalities and sports associations alike may interpret this ruling to mean that a city can sponsor a public event and then restrict who may broadcast the event. This ruling could extend to restrictions on broadcasting parades, marathons, and city-sponsored festivals. Several years ago a Los Angeles District Court ruled that the city could not grant exclusive rights to an “official” television station.

The result is a disappointment to the NPPA, which joined several other news organizations in filing an amicus brief in support of the newspaper  last year.

The entire Seventh Circuit ruling can be found here: WIAA v. Gannett Seventh Circuit Opinion, No. 10-2627

An extensive legal article that I wrote on the issue can be found here:

An earlier NPPA article on the conflict can be found here.

Posted in Access, blogging, broadcasting, copyright, Federal Court, First Amendment, Legal, News Photography, photojournalism, students | No Comments »

Next Entries »