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NY Federal Judge Rules in Photographer’s Favor Supporting 1st and 14th Amendment Rights

February 27th, 2017 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Today federal court Judge J. Paul Oetken denied a  motion to dismiss by the City of New York allowing the case, Jason B. Nicholas v. The City of New York, to proceed. The civil rights lawsuit was brought pro se (on his own) by Mr. Nicholas, a professional photojournalist, against Defendants William Bratton, Stephen Davis, Michael DeBonis, and the City of New York on December 8, 2015.  The suit alleges that Defendants violated Mr. Nicholas’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by revoking his NYPD issued press credential without due process and in retaliation for the content of his speech.

The Order and opinion out of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found that the government cannot pick and choose among which newsgatherers to allow access to a scene or to information and that the NYPD’s restriction on newsgathering may have violated the First Amendment. The court also found that journalists may very well have a First Amendment interest in their NYPD-issued press credential that calls for due process protections, and that the NYPD summary revocation of press credentials may have been without due process, violating the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, the court found that the city may have an unconstitutional unwritten policy to obstruct and interfere with newsgathering in general and with Mr. Nicholas’ newsgathering in particular.

See: Nicholas v. Bratton Opinion 02-27-17

 

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Motion to Dismiss, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NY Daily News, NYPD, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Press Credentials, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »

NPPA Helps Create Newly Released Credentialing Report

June 5th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Journalist’s Resource project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, in collaboration with a Media Credentialing Working Group composed of the National Press Photographers Association, the Digital Media Law Project, Journalist’s Resource, Free Press, the Investigative News Network, and the Nieman Journalism Lab have released a new report: Who Gets a Press Pass? Media Credentialing Practices in the United States.

Media credentials have long played a critical role in newsgathering in the United States, allowing journalists to gain special access to places and events denied to the general public. There are, however, many inconsistencies among regulatory standards for the issuance of credentials, and many circumstances where the decision of whether and how to issue credentials is left up to individual agencies with no regulatory guidance at all. Moreover, upheaval in the journalism industry has introduced new actors in the journalism ecosystem, complicating decisions by government agencies and private gatekeepers about who should be entitled to special access.

Who Gets a Press Pass? presents a first-of-its-kind analysis of this complex environment, exploring media credentialing practices in the United States through a nationwide survey of more than 1,300 newsgatherers.

“Media credentials represent one of the most important interactions between journalists and those who control access to events and information,” said Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project and an author of the report. “This study finds common threads that run through decisions by various types of organizations, as a starting point to make sense out of the vast array of credentialing practices in the United States.”

Survey respondents included a wide range of journalists across the country, from employed journalists at long-standing media organizations to independent bloggers and activists fulfilling the information needs of their communities.

“The findings here speak to the vital issue of ensuring that journalists of all kinds can bear witness to important events in our society,” said Shorenstein Center Director Alex S. Jones. “The ability of the press to operate freely, robustly and without interference is essential to an informed public. We must be vigilant in making sure that all organizations issuing press credentials exert the maximum effort to accommodate media members and enable the free flow of information.”

The survey asked about respondents’ experiences in seeking press credentials from federal, state, local, and private organizations from 2008 through 2013, revealing the following nationwide trends:

  • One out of every five journalists surveyed who applied for a credential was denied at least once by a credentialing organization in the past five years. Although there may be reasonable grounds for denial in some cases, the data suggest systemic issues at many levels.
  • Freelancers are more than twice as likely as employed journalists to be denied a credential at least once.
  • Those identifying themselves as photographers are almost twice as likely as others to be denied a credential at least once.
  • Those identifying themselves as activists are more than twice as likely as others to be denied a credential at least once.

“It is indeed unfortunate that photographers have been one of the groups singled out for denial by agencies issuing press credentials, but it also must be pointed out that one does not need a press credential to photograph and record in a public place. That said, widespread mistrust by police officers of the media (or anyone with a camera) continues to be reflected in the misguided belief that photography and recording in public places may be prohibited,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, who helped formulate the survey.

It is the hope of the Working Group that this study will help newsgatherers to identify particular tensions in media credentialing practices and to work with credentialing agencies to resolve these tensions.

The report is available through the Digital Media Law Project’s website at http://www.dmlp.org/credentials and through the Journalist’s Resource website at http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/who-gets-press-pass-credentialing.

Posted in Access, Cameras, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Press Credentials, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »

NYPD Officer Indicted After Investigation of NPPA Member’s Unlawful Arrest

August 28th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , ,

An NYPD officer accused of roughing up and illegally arresting a New York Times photographer has been indicted on multiple charges stemming from an incident last August. Robert Stolarik, an NPPA member, was violently accosted and taken into custody while photographing Officer Michael Ackermann who was trying to arrest a teenage girl in the Bronx.

Officer Ackermann claimed Stolarik hindered police work by repeatedly aiming the flash of his camera at the officer’s face. That story crumbled under investigation by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). The Bronx district attorney also learned that Stolarik did not have a flash on his camera at the time of the incident, and concluded the officer’s story was a lie. Ackermann now faces three felonies and five misdemeanors, and could see up to seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

Working with New York Times’ Vice President and Assistant General Counsel George Freeman after the arrest, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher sent a letter to NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne objecting to Stolarik’s unwarranted arrest and rough treatment. Freeman and Osterreicher also requested that the photographer’s equipment and press credentials, both seized at the time of the incident, be immediately returned. In addition the NPPA publicly criticized the NYPD for their actions.

Stolarik’s ordeal was especially troubling because he was arrested in direct violation of NYPD’s own Patrol Guide directives as noted in a follow-up letter from Osterreicher to Browne. Osterreicher also sent a letter to the editor, which was published in the NY Times. In it Osterreicher urged “the New York Police Department to work with us to improve training and supervision for its members.”

Robert Stolarik displays his NYPD press credentials in Tampa. FL, received 2 days before the RNC (photo by Mickey Osterreicher)

The NYPD returned Stolarik’s equipment in the days following the NPPA’s first letter. Osterreicher’s continued negotiations with the department resulted in the release of the photographer’s press credentials two weeks later. Ongoing efforts by George Freeman resulted in prosecutor’s ultimately dropped all charges against Stolarik.

The internal investigation that resulted in Officer Ackermann’s indictment is an encouraging sign in what was otherwise a troubling year for the NYPD’s relationship with photographers. Soon after Stolarik’s arrest, police conducted a campaign of intimidation and interference against photographers covering the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Stolarik himself had been forcibly prevented from covering the actual rally the previous year. Several journalists were detained or arrested at the Occupy anniversary. The NPPA also responded to these incidents.

Incidents such as this are becoming all too common throughout the country. Many officers apparently do not know or disregard photographers’ First Amendment rights. Despite assertions two years ago that the NYPD was providing improved training to its officers the situation in New York City has not improved. “We have been unsuccessful in arranging a meeting with the new NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters (DCLM) or the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) to discuss these issues,” said Osterreicher. “Commissioner Kelly and his staff met with members of the media after the arrests of 26 journalists in Zuccotti Park in November of 2011, after which he issued a Finest message directing members of the NYPD to cooperate with the press. At the time I said that it was a good start but since then it appears to be just another piece of paper as far too many officers and supervisory staff ignore its directives,” Osterreicher added.

On behalf of the NPPA, Osterreicher has continued to advise and train police agencies around the country in an effort to improve police-press relations. The First Amendment is not absolute but subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. While police may have the discretion to limit access when public safety or other legitimate law enforcement activities so dictate, they may not order someone to stop taking photographs or recording video in a public place, especially if other members of the public are allowed to remain and observe those activities.

As Osterreicher says in his police training: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way!” It is indeed unfortunate that rather than respecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that they are sworn to uphold some officers believe that they are a law unto themselves. For Officer Ackermann it may have been a very costly mistake to view a photographer with a camera with suspicion and contempt. Everyone has a job to do: for a police officer it is to provide public safety and enforce the law; for a visual journalist it is to gather and disseminate news. It would best serve both purposes if this case helps to encourage cooperation between the two professions rather that continued conflict. As often is the case it’s the enlightening truths that prove most elusive.

Posted in Access, DCPI Paul Browne, False Arrest, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Press Credentials, Public Photography, Recording Police, Robert Stolarik | No Comments »

NPPA Along With 13 Media Groups Sends Letter to NYPD Regarding Police-Press Relations

October 1st, 2012 by and tagged , , , ,

The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) along with 13 other media organizations sent a letter to the New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today requesting another meeting to discuss recent police incidents involving journalists in New York City. Joining in the letter were: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, the Associated Press, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, the New York Press Club, the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, the New York Press Photographers Association, the American Society of Media Photographers, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The first incident desribed in the letter involved the arrest of New York Times photographer Robert Stolarik on August 4, 2012, in the Bronx. Stolarik was interfered with and arrested for taking pictures of an arrest which was being conducted as part of New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” program. Throught the efforts of NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher and New York Times deputy general counsel George Freeman, Stolarik was able to recover his equipment a week later and his credentials on August 23, 2012. Although Stolarik filed a complaint with the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau immediately after his release the report of that investigation has not been released.

“We are also deeply concerned because his arrest appears to be in direct contravention of a 6/2/77 Stipulation and Order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the matter of Black v. Codd, which was incorporated verbatim into the NYPD Patrol Guide in 2000 at PG 208-03 under the heading “Observers at the Scene of Police Incidents,” Osterreicher wrote in his letter to the NYPD.

Also of concern to the group was the treatment of journalists on September 17, 2012, when members of the NYPD “interfered with, assaulted, detained and in some cases arrested members of the media who were on a public street covering the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests.” Media members reported that officers told them that they were not allowed to use their cameras in a public area before using batons to force them from the area. Another group of journalists present were threatened with arrest if they failed to leave the area, even though the same police officers were permitting members of the public to pass through the same area.

“It is our strongly asserted position that while the press may not have a greater right of access than the public, they have no less right either,”  Osterreicher wrote. “We strongly object to any journalists being harassed, intimidated and arrested when clearly displaying press identification solely because they were not considered to be ‘properly credentialed’ by the police,” he added.

The letter concluded by stating, “given these ongoing issues and incidents we believe that more is needed in order to improve police-press relations and to clarify the ability of credentialed and non-credentialed journalists to photograph and record on public streets without fear of intimidation and arrest. Therefore, we urge you meet with us once again so that we may help devise a better system of education and training for department members starting from the top down.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NY Daily News, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Press Credentials, Recording, Recording Police, Robert Stolarik | No Comments »

General Counsel for NPPA Weighs In On Media Issues Surrounding Party National Conventions

August 24th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), offered his legal expertise in a webinar Thursday night in which panelists discussed media issues surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, N.C.

The webinar, entitled “Reporting at the Conventions : Safety, Security & Rights,” featured journalists and policy experts who offered their advice on how to act and what to look for while covering the events.  Josh Stearns, the Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director at Free Press, led the discussion that focused primarily on arrest issues and Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizures.

“I think one of the things that drew [the panel] together was the concern for finding ways to support journalists as the demographics of journalism are changing, and we’re seeing more and more freelance, independent, and citizen journalists out there on the front lines covering these sorts of events,” Stearns said.  “We want to provide tools, networks, resources and support for those journalists.”

The panel featured Natasha Lennard and Susie Cagle, two journalists who shared their experiences of being arrested while covering Occupy protests.  The panel also featured Andy Sellars, who works for the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center.

The webinar gave viewers a chance to interact and direct questions to the panelists about issues particularly concerning to them.  In light of the increase of freelance and citizen journalists, one pressing concern involved distinguishing one’s self from protestors and the extent to which media credentials would protect journalists from police interference.

Osterreicher, who will attend both the RNC and DNC, told viewers that only officially issued credentials will be honored and valid for inside security perimeter areas, and that prohibitions against certain items may make it difficult for anyone without those credentials to carry out their assignments.

“The problem is that for both of these conventions, I think the secret service are pretty much setting the tone for these things,” Osterreicher said.  “”It’ll be interesting to see what happens when people are carrying some of these prohibited items to the credentialed area.”

Sellars informed viewers that his group had published a guide on the state of the law in Tampa and Charlotte that will help journalists better understand what to expect while covering the conventions.

“Both Tampa and Charlotte have passed ordinances that prohibit certain items,” Sellars said.  “The trick is that you have to think about these things from the perspective of law enforcement.  It’s not what your intent is so much as what the police think your intent is.”

The RNC runs from Aug. 27-30, while the DNC runs from Sep. 4-6.  For more information on the issues discussed during the webinar, a recording of the event can be seen here.

Posted in Charlotte, Democratic National Convention, First Amendment rights, FL, Florida, National Press Photographers Association, NC, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Press Credentials, Republican National Conventiob, Tampa, U.S. Secret Service, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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 »