Search

NPPA Responds to LAPD “Special Order” that equates photography with criminal activity

September 20th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada

Once again, a law enforcement agency has instructed its officers to equate photography with terrorism, and the NPPA has responded. The NPPA was joined by a coalition of other media and photography organizations this week in a letter to Chief Charles Beck, of the Los Angeles Police Department, including the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Los Angeles Times, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles (PPAGLA), the Society of Professional Journalists – Greater Los Angeles Chapter (SPJ-LA) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

The LAPD recently issued guidelines instructing their officers on “behavior/activity that may reveal a nexus to foreign or domestic terrorism.” Such behavior listed includes:

“Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures, or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person.  Examples include taking pictures or videos of ingress/egress, delivery locations, personnel performing security functions (e.g., patrol, badge/vehicle checking), security-related equipment (e.g., perimeter fencing, security cameras), etc”

In the letter, NPPA General Counsel, Mickey Osterreicher explained to Chief Beck:

“Photography is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. Unfortuately the reliance on policies such as the LAPD’s as the basis for law enforcement officers to question, detain and interfere with lawful activities by photographers under the guise of preventing terrotist activites has become a daily occurrence.”

Osterreicher added that this “erroneous belief is only reinforced by these specific references to photography as possibly being part of some sinister act,” noting that the guidelines are “overly broad and vague and helps foster a climate of fear and suspicion”

The NPPA offered to work with the law enforcement agency to help develop more reasonable policies regarding photography, asking that any reference to photography be removed from the guidelines.

 

Posted in Cameras, First Amendment, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Street Photography, Suspicious Activity | No Comments »

NPPA, RCFP Keep Journalists Safe During Conventions

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

John West proudly displays his NPPA affiliation while covering protests during the DNC. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

One could easily imagine that, after seeing how well things went during the RNC in Tampa, that members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) might have let their guard down as the DNC began.  To the contrary, officers there remained on high alert throughout the convention and made use of every available resource to ensure that the DNC would go just as smoothly.

Mark Newbold, Deputy City Attorney for CMPD, said that after inclement weather deterred protestors at the RNC, CMPD officers were prepared for an increase in DNC protests.  While the number of protestors stayed below their expectations, Newbold said that his department’s preparedness allowed those who did come to protest to do so with limited police involvement.

“Most of the protestors, even the rowdy ones, have been willing to comply,” Newbold said.  “The main focus of the police is that we don’t focus on speech, we focus on criminal behavior.  You can say and do what you want as long as you don’t take violent acts against people or property.”

Protestors take a break in the middle of the street during the DNC. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

While the CMPD sought to create an open environment for demonstrations, several protestors were arrested during the convention.  However, no journalists were arrested, a fact that Newbold credits in large part to NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher, who came to Charlotte in April to help educate and train officers regarding First and Fourth Amendment rights.  Newbold said the work of the department and the NPPA helped to create understanding between journalists and police rather than confrontation.

“After things went as well as they did in Tampa I was concerned that the coverage of the protests in Charlotte might be more problematic, but fortunately the feedback I received was that the police were extremely professional, cordial  and accommodating in both cities,” Osterreicher said. “It is a credit to the Tampa and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police departments that they were not only willing to embrace the idea of allowing the media to do their jobs but that they properly trained officers from so many other agencies to adopt and adhere to that policy,” he added.

Just like during the NATO Summit in Chicago, where Superintendent Gary McCarthy led his officers and in Tampa, where Police Chief Jane Castor and Hillsboro County Sheriff David Gee led theirs – CMPD Chief of Police Rodney Monroe was out on the street directing operations. It is believed that this hands-on approach is also credited with encouraging proper behavior and discipline by officers.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe out on the street with his officers. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

Brian Cunningham, public information officer (PIO) for CMPD, said that an important step the department took was to place field PIOs in several locations to work with the media.  The PIOs answered journalists’ questions and informed them of where to go.  Cunningham also credits Osterreicher with helping the department develop policies such as the field PIO program.

“Mickey helped with training on working with the media for large scale events,” Cunningham said.  “We were able to train our entire department in media relations, which was critical to our success.”

Highly visible Public Information Officers were on the scene. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

Journalists across the nation feared the worst in the days leading up to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.  Memories of the mass arrests of protestors and journalists during the 2008 conventions in St. Paul and Denver had not faded, and the arrest of journalists across the nation had steadily increased each year since then.

Although no journalists were arrested during the DNC, on the Saturday before the convention, Washington Post photographer Bonnie Jo Mount said she was approached by Bank of America security guards, who told her that she was not allowed to photograph the outside of their building even though she was on a public sidewalk.

Mount got in touch with Osterreicher, who immediately contacted the head of Bank of America corporate security and the head of security for the building to get clarification on their policies regarding photography.  Osterreicher said that the heads of security acknowledged that Mount had every right to photograph the building from the street, and assured him that the security guards would be made aware of the policies reflecting that right.

“It was very clear from my conversations with Bank of America that they were not happy about some of their overzealous security officers and were more than willing to remedy this problem,” Osterreicher said. “Later in the week I took a picture of the security fence and a guard in front of the building and no one said a word.”

Bank of America corporate security guard outside their headquarters in Charlotte. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

There was also some Twitter traffic regarding two journalists being confronted by police at the direction of “undercover agents” who the journalists had apparently recognized and photographed. According to reports one of the journalists voluntarily deleted his images after both were stopped and searched by uniform police. No official complaints about this incident or any other interference with journalists were received by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), which ran a hotline for journalists to handle any problems.

“If [the hotline] keeps one person from going to jail and allows them to get back on the street and reporting the news, then it’s worth it,” said Gregg Leslie, Interim Executive Director for RCFP.

Leslie said the hotline’s inception resulted from strife between police and the media back in 1972, when journalists felt that police were targeting them for arrest.  Since then, attorneys have stood at the ready for when a call comes through from a distressed journalist.

“Over the years it’s really been useful,” Leslie said.  “One to two times during a convention, there will be a mass arrest and reporters will get swept into it.” The NPPA and the Reporters Committee have worked together in the past but Osterreicher said the “cooperation between our organizations is a concrete example of what can be accomplished by partnering on these critical issues.”

In order to give journalists the best chance to have their charges dropped and get back to reporting, RCFP employed attorneys in the host cities of the convention.  This year those positions were assumed by Gregg Thomas and Carol LoCicero of the Tampa firm Thomas & LoCicero, and John Buchan of the Charlotte firm McGuire Woods. They attributed the fact that no calls of problems being received to the level of preparation that went into training officers for the convention.

“We informed the police from the outset that we were here and what our plans were [in the event of a journalist’s arrest],” Thomas said.

LoCicero said that officers were very receptive to the training that they offered prior to the convention, noting that the Tampa Police Department implemented a policy requiring an officer to get approval from a supervisor before making an arrest of a member of the media.

Buchan especially credits the work done by NPPA and the Reporters Committee in the months prior to the convention for informing officers of press rights and the importance of remaining cognizant of those rights while protecting public safety.  Buchan said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) did a great job of using the training to see that police and journalists alike would be able to do their jobs during the convention.

“The police in Charlotte really went to school on what happened in St. Paul and Denver and especially at this year’s Chicago NATO Summit,” Buchan said.  “They didn’t want a repeat of the arrests that took place in 2008 and they did a great job implementing policies to ensure that did not happen.”

Everyone had a camera and was taking photographs or recording. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

Osterreicher noted that while he still continues to deal with photographers being interfered with and arrested on an almost daily basis around the country he is very pleased that in those situations where the police have made a concerted effort to avoid such confrontations, they have for the most part not occurred. “The NPPA board of directors made a decision in January of this year to take substantive steps to avoid a repeat of the mass arrests that took place during protests at prior national conventions,” Osterreicher said. “I am very appreciative of the support and direction I received from the board and the opportunity to have helped in some small measure,” he added.

NPPA President Sean Elliot said, “this is a great example of the positive effect of pro-active efforts by NPPA and other groups to reach-out to government agencies;” adding  “journalists, not just NPPA members, owe Mickey and all those involved in these efforts, a debt of gratitude.” “It is my sincere hope that such success can be built upon and spread to more routine interactions between the police and visual journalists,” he concluded.

Posted in Access, Democratic National Convention, First Amendment, National Press Photographers Association, photographers, photojournalism, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Republican National Conventiob, Uncategorized | 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 »

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 »

Journalism Groups Protest Prosecution of Photojournalist

March 27th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher

Today the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to the Santa Cruz DA stating they are “deeply concerned by your office’s decision to prosecute Bradley Stuart Allen, a longtime San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay) contributor, as well as by assertions from your office that: (1) a reporter may be prosecuted for conspiracy simply by providing coverage of a newsworthy event and (2) Indybay is not a bona fide news organization.”  Mr. Allen was charged with felony conspiracy along with vandalism and tresspassing for his coverage of an “Occupy” demonstration late last year.  

On March 12, 2012 the NPPA along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter brief to the court seeking  that the charges against him be dismissed in the interest of justice. In the alternative the letter asked for the court to exercise leniency in addressing those offenses. The groups also asserted that because newsgathering is constitutionally protected, the court should carefully weigh the public interest in obtaining information against arguably lesser government interests.

After a hearing last week the judge dismissed the felony vandalism charge, finding that  prosecutors did not meet their burden of presenting sufficient evidence but refused to dismiss  the felony conspiracy and two misdemeanor trespassing charges against him.

The letter sent today by SPJ concluded by saying, “it is wholly inappropriate, and indeed unconstitutional, for a public prosecutor to single out representatives of a disfavored news organization for prosecution. That a photojournalist from The Santa Cruz Sentinel was able to enter the occupied building and report from it without also being subjected to charges brings this abuse into even sharper relief” and strongly urged the DA “to reconsider whether to proceed with this aggressive and dangerous targeting of the independent press.”

Allen’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 29.

Posted in Bradley Allen, condemned, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Santa Cruz, Vandalism | No Comments »

NPPA & REPORTERS COMMITTEE SEEK DISMISSAL OF CHARGES AGAINST PHOTOJOURNALIST COVERING OCCUPY PROTEST

March 12th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DURHAM, NC — The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (Reporters Committee) filed a joint “Letter Brief” seeking the dismissal of charges against Bradley Stuart Allen in The People of the State of California v. Becky Ann Johnson et al, Case No. F22194. The brief asserts that Mr. Allen, who is a photojournalist and NPPA member, should not be criminally prosecuted for trespass, vandalism and conspiracy. He was charged after his photographic coverage of an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest in Santa Cruz, California last year.

Noting that the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom is meaningless if journalists do not possess a concomitant right to gather the news, the brief states that –  while the allegedly violated statutes may serve important government interests, they cannot be exempt from First Amendment protection. Application of these laws in the prosecution of a journalist engaged in the constitutionally protected act of newsgathering demands careful balancing of these competing interests.

“While journalists may sometimes violate the letter of the law in order to obtain information of public concern, we believe it is extremely important for the court to also consider when such action occurs in the spirit and exercise of First Amendment rights,” said Sean D. Elliot, NPPA president. “Review of visual reportage subject to criminal penalties without that balance unfairly burdens newsgathering at its most critical need of protection,” he added.

This is just the most recent case where journalists have been interfered with and arrested while covering OWS protests throughout the country. In almost every case, those charges — ranging from disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration to trespass — have been dismissed or the defendant journalists have been acquitted.”

About the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)

The NPPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism in its creation, editing and distribution. Since 1946, NPPA has vigorously promoted freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as that freedom relates to visual journalism.

For more information, contact Mickey H. Osterreicher at 716.566.1484 or go to www.nppa.org. You can also follow us on Twitter @nppa.

Posted in Access, Bradley Allen, Conspiracy, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Interest of Justice, law, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Santa Cruz, Vandalism | 3 Comments »

Next Entries »