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Right to Record–Recording in Public Meetings is a Right in Arkansas

April 3rd, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Attorney General in Arkansas issued an opinion letter ruling on Monday confirming that a city council in the state did not have the right to ban video recordings of public meetings.

The Associated Press is reporting that the White River Current newspaper sought an official opinion from the AG’s office after the local city council in Calico Rock banned recordings from its meetings. The newspaper had posted council meeting videos on YouTube.

Three questions were posed to the AG, including

1) whether or not the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act granted citizens a right to make a video recording of a public meeting of elected officials?

A: Yes.

2) whether a claim that recording is “disruptive” because a council member is uncomfortable being recorded, sufficient reason to ban recording.

A: No.

3) whether or not the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to record public officials in performance of their duties.

A: No- the First Amendment does not grant peopel the right to make a tape recording of a public meeting.

In an eleven page opinion, the AG said, in summary:

When one reads the FOIA broadly to foster greater openness and more disclosure—as we are required to do—I believe there are good grounds to conclude that our FOIA affords persons the right to videotape a public meeting. According to my research, this also accords with the law in the overwhelming majority of states. But, in response to your second question, the right to videotape a public meeting is subject to the public body’s reasonable regulation. While such regulation cannot ban videotaping, the regulation can ensure that the activity is done in a manner that does not disrupt the meeting. In my view, the mere fact that a member of the public body is uncomfortable being filmed is not a sufficient reason to ban the videotaping. When it comes to videotaping public meetings, the FOIA appears to give greater rights than does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because—in response to your third question—the amendment does not give people a right to videotape public proceedings.

The opinion is loaded with interesting case law and citations to various state FOI decisions. See in particular footnotes on page 3, for an analysis of various states and the right to record public meetings, with citations to rules expressly permitting recording in Indiana, South Carolina and Kentucky. The opinion can be found at this link.

 

Posted in Access, blogging, broadcasting, First Amendment, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Forum, Public Photography, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Recording, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »

Ninth Circuit: Photojournalist’s Access is a “Fundamental Constitutional Right”

February 16th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In another victory for photographers, the NPPA is applauding a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which held that restrictions on a photojournalists’ access to a horse roundup by a federal agency may have violated her First Amendment rights. The appellate court stopped short of ruling that her rights were violated, but remanded the case to a lower court to reconsider the question based on a specific analysis.

In the fall of 2010, photojournalist Laura Leigh set out to cover a wild horse round-up, conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the purposes of population control.  According to the ruling, while Leigh was covering the round-up, severe restrictions were imposed on her — she was escorted by armed guards and directed to stand in an area in which her view was obstructed. From the location she was forced to stand in, she was unable to observe or photograph the horses being moved or sorted and was unable to view whether or not the horses were injured. Leigh was also prohibited from standing in certain areas even though other members of the public were permitted in those areas.

Leigh attempted to get an injunction and restraining order to provide her with unrestricted access but that request was denied by a federal court. The appellate court reversed the denial, holding that “courts have a duty to conduct a thorough and searching review of any attempt to restrict public access.”

The ruling in Leigh vs. Salazar ordered the lower court to engage in a proper inquiry. Appellate courts generally do not make factual findings and the question of whether Leigh’s rights were violated is very fact specific and required more detailed information than was available to the appellate court.

The court called the photographer’s access to take pictures a “fundamental constitutional right, which serves to ensure that the individual citizen can effectively participate in and contribute to our republican system of self government.” When there is a right of access, the government may only overcome that right by “demonstrating an overriding interest based on findings that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” The National Press Photographers Association and the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press had filed an amicus brief in support of the photographer after the case was brought to our attention.

Quoting founding father James Madison, the court noted that:

“a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
9 WRITINGS OF JAMES MADISON 103 (G. Hunt ed. 1910)

Read the entire Ninth Circuit decision here: Decision021412 (PDF)

Posted in Access, Cameras, Federal Court, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Regulations limiting photography, Street Photography | 5 Comments »

NPPA protests arrest of San Diego Photographer – Investigation Underway

January 18th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Earlier this week NPPA member and San Diego freelance photojournalists Edward R. Baier was arrested while covering an incident near the San Diego River.

Reports state that Baier was on public property and complied with officers in respecting a perimeter they set up. Yet he was arrested and his camera gear was seized.

The department responded to NPPA almost immediately, with Assistant Chief Boyd Long telling Osterreicher that the equipment would be returned and that an internal investigation had been initiated. Baier’s camera, tapes and other seized equipment were returned to him the next day.

After the incident Baier said, “if it wasn’t for Mickey Osterreicher’s letter from the  NPPA I would not have had my equipment returned to me.” “I am very proud to be a member of an organization the has the legal resources available to its membership at anytime,” he added.

To read the letter sent by NPPA, click here: San Diego Police Letter 01-16-12-1

See also, article here.

Posted in Access, Cameras, confiscated, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography | 1 Comment »

Update: NYPD to Remind Officers of Media’s Rights at 10 Consecutive Roll Calls

November 23rd, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

After meeting on Wednesday with several media attorneys, including NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered that a “Finest” message be disseminated reminding officers of their obligations to cooperate with the media. The message will be read at 10 consecutive roll calls citywide.

“I’m pleased to see such a swift response from the Commissioner, of course this is just the first step in ensuring that this doesn’t happen again,” said Osterreicher. “We expect more to be done in the near future to help improve police-press relations which have devolved so significantly.”

The Finest message highlights various guidelines that instruct police on how to deal with the media, including that “Members of the service will not interfere with the videotaping or the photographing of incidents in public places. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or harassing the photographer constitutes censorship. Working Press Cards clearly state the bearer ‘is entitled to cross police and fire lines.’ This right will be honored and access will not be denied.”

The message also states: that “Members of the service who unreasonably interfere with media access to incidents or who intentionally prevent or obstruct the photographing or videotaping of news in public places will be subject to disciplinary action.”

The meeting on Wednesday came after a letter was sent by media organizations on Monday complaining about the way police mishandled the media during last week’s “eviction” of Zuccotti Park, the home of months of Occupy Wall Street protests. Police officers arrested several journalists and also used force against several journalists during the raid.

Read the entire contents of the planned  NYPD Finest message, as it was provided to the NPPA.

 

 

Posted in Cameras, First Amendment, mass media, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, NYPD, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Street Photography, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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 »

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 »

Connecticut Bill Would Protect Photographer’s Rights

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

I grew up in Connecticut so I am especially proud of this nugget:

A bill in the Connecticut General Assembly would provide photographers a right to sue a police officer who interferes with their right to take pictures.

The stated purpose of Proposed Bill No. 788 is “[t]o clarify the right to photograph or videotape an event.”

It calls for authorizing “a person to bring a civil action for damages against a police officer who has interfered with such person’s right to photograph or videotape an event if such person’s actions did not prevent or hinder the police officer performing his or her duties.”

The author of this bill is Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney.

Posted in Access, First Amendment, photographers, photojournalism | No Comments »

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