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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 »