Search

NPPA Files Joint Brief With RCFP & Other News Media Groups Supporting Right To Photograph Government Horse Roundup

September 13th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA, along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and supported by other news media organizations, filed a legal brief in support of a photojournalist’s claim of a right to access wild horse roundups on federal land.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is set to again consider whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated wild horse advocate Laura Leigh’s First Amendment rights when it  restricted her ability to photograph a 2010 horse roundup.

Leigh was trying to take pictures of BLM personnel corralling horses in the Nevada scrub when officials demanded she stay in designated public viewing areas.  The views from these locations were obstructed, and Leigh’s wasn’t able to get the pictures she needed, according to court documents.  Monitoring  how the government handles these roundups is important, as they involve removing a vulnerable species from it’s natural habitat.

In the days following the incident, Leigh sought an injunction to prevent the land bureau from restricting public access in the future.  Since then, the case has seen its share of legal wrangling.  The injunction has been alternatively granted and overturned on several occasions.  Now, the appellate court that sent the case back to the lower court last year is set to hear it again.

Though the case involves a relatively specific issue, it implicates a privilege of paramount importance: the right of the press and public to monitor the government.  More specifically, this case is a matter of the extent of access the press and public should be allowed in pursuing that privilege. “Government activities need press access and review, particularly where they occur in remote and deserted locations that the public is unlikely to frequent,” said  Jean-Paul Jassy of the law firm Bostwick & Jassy LLP who authored the brief along with Kevin L. Vick of the same firm, with input from Gregg P. Leslie, Legal Defense Director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Mickey H. Osterreicher, NPPA general counsel.

Like many First Amendment liberties, the right to access government activities is not absolute.  Certainly, some government actions involve serious danger or demand confidentiality to the extent that some restrictions are reasonable. The courts have developed a test for balancing the government’s interest in keeping people away from certain situations against the people’s right to know (usually provided by press coverage) in seeing what their government is doing.

Articulated in Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court of California for Riverside Cnty., 478 U.S. 1, 8,  the “experience and logic” test considers 1) whether the activity in question has historically been open to the press and general public and 2) whether public access plays a significant positive role in the function of that activity.  The stronger these questions are answered in the affirmative, the heavier the burden on the government to demonstrate an “overriding interest” that warrants restriction.  The government also must show that these restrictions are narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

In the case at hand, the lower court found that 1) wild horse roundups have traditionally been open to the public and 2) open access plays an important role in “protecting the interests of the overpopulated horses and news gathering for the benefit of the public.”

However, the court ruled in the government’s favor.  The U.S District Court judge found that the access restrictions were warranted by concerns over safety and effective horse gathering.   The NPPA and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press strongly disagree. Our objections were outlined in the brief to the Ninth Circuit:

“The court afforded too much discretion to the Government to decide whether observing the gathers was safe, without recognizing that journalists routinely – and critically – face far more dangerous situations on a regular basis without official interference or protection.  [T]he court below denied meaningful public and press access to the horse roundups, while sustaining unconstitutional restrictions on such access.”

The press groups contends that the restrictions as they stand do not allow meaningful access to the roundups.  Photographers simply cannot get adequate images from the locations they are relegated to.  Further, the government has not presented convincing evidence that the roundups are dangerous to the point that such restrictive locations are needed.

This is especially so, the brief notes, because viewing “large, remote operations like wild horse roundups is not an option for most people,  [and] the media act as public surrogates, conveying those images to a vast public audience and enabling the public to satisfy its civic duty in monitoring the government.”

“The BLM restrictions on access are very similar to those used to limit recording police activity in public places as well as being analogous to the right of access to courtroom proceedings,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher. “We also pointed out to the 9th Circuit in our argument and with an appendix of photographs, just how uniquely important and compelling visual images are to the newsgathering process,” he added. “We are hopeful that the Court will take judicial notice of that important distinction in our favor,” Osterreicher added.

Laura Leigh is represented by Gordon M. Cowan. His brief may be read here. The other news media organization that joined in the brief were: the American Society of News Editors, The Association of American Publishers, Inc., the First Amendment Coalition, Battle Born Media LLC, the Los Angeles Times, the Student Press Law Center, the National Press Club, National Public Radio, Inc., The Nevada Press Association, the Reno Gazette-Journal, The Seattle Times Co., Stephens Media LLC and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press | No Comments »

California Parks Department Responds to Incident with Film Crew

June 13th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A month after being notified the California Department of Parks and Recreation has responded to a letter sent by NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher regarding an incident during which parks employees detained a news crew and ordered them to delete their footage. KGTV Team 10 reporter Mitch Blacher and photojournalist Arie Thanasoulis were on public property at San Onofre State Beach on April 29, 2013 shooting footage for a story on the San Onofre Nuclear power plant when they were approached by a parks employee who accused them of trespassing, blocked their vehicle and ordered them to stop recording.

That employee, later identified as Bob Warman, then called State Parks Police Officer Ennio Rocca  who arrived and also proceeded to harass and threaten to arrest the pair for doing nothing more than recording video of the plant from an area open to the public.  Officer Rocca in turn called an unidentified employee of Southern California Edison, who arrived on the scene dressed in full SWAT gear. The three of them then ordered the crew to delete whatever video they had already shot under threat of arrest.While the trio claimed the news crew was standing on private property, the “no trespassing” sign they referred to turned out to be for “no parking,” while a fisherman and a woman walking her dog are visible in video footage in an area they alleged was “secure.” Although the news crew complied with the unreasonable demand and deleted a file containing the footage they were able to broadcast a story using video contained on a second file.

In his letter Osterreicher called the actions of the parks officers “a clear violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.” “It is one thing for officers to act when there is probable cause, Osterreicher wrote, “it is quite another to abuse that discretion in order to create a climate that infringes upon free speech under the pretext of safety and security.” He requested that the “matter be fully investigated and the employees properly disciplined if so indicated.” Osterreicher also advised the department by email of another incident that occurred on May 14, 2103 involving its officers, who detained and questioned two other photographers, JC Playford and Gerry Nance, filming near the power plant gate.

Responding to the NPPA, California Department of Parks & Recreation Chief Counsel Claire LeFlore agreed that the officers had overstepped their bounds. “In hindsight, they may have acted with an overabundance of caution while detaining the news crew,” LeFlore said, “but there was never an intention to violate anyone’s constitutional rights.” LeFlore noted that the incident came shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, and at that “staff was on high alert for the possibility of additional terrorist actions.” Osterreicher responded to that statement in a subsequent interview, saying, “it is indeed unfortunate that well-meaning people still somehow equate an act of terrorism with photography.” “In the Boston tragedy it should be duly noted that law enforcement requested anyone who had pictures or video of the event provide them voluntarily – not delete them,” he added.

The importance of defending sensitive targets is well understood, but, as Osterreicher noted, “in any free country the balance between actual vigilance and over-zealous enforcement is delicate.” LeFlore says all personnel involved in the incident have been counseled on how to properly deal with the press “so that First Amendment rights can be protected and both the press and [parks] staff can carry out their functions with minimal interference with each other.” Officers have also been counseled that there is no legal basis for the seizure or destruction of photographs or video.

Osterreicher also sent copies of his letter to officials from Southern California Edison, the owners of the plant but received no response. In its report 10News quoted a spokeswoman for the utility, as saying, “a security officer ‘responded conservatively when he indicated to a television crew his preference that they stop filming and delete their video.'” Osterreicher also responded to that statement, “Indicating a preference that someone stop filming is a far cry from illegally ordering someone to do so under threat of arrest.” “Aside from being factually incorrect, the arrogance of Southern California Edison in their failure to respond to our letter, unrepentant statements to KGTV and behavior of their employees speaks for itself,” he concluded.

The NPPA has offered to work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to improve their guidelines and training regarding these matters in order to avoid similar situations. The parks department says it will consider NPPA suggestions in implementing an expanded staff training program.

KGTV reporter Mitch Blacher said in an email, “It is encouraging to see the California state parks police work to remedy the oppression of constitutional rights by their officers,” adding, “As American citizens and working journalists our treatment was highly troubling.” “More questions need to be asked as to why California parks police and staff followed the direction of non-sworn private security personnel instead of the federal and state constitutions they swore an oath to uphold.”  1oNews Special Projects Executive Producer Ellen McGregor added, “As a manager behind-the-scenes, who talked for quite some time on the phone with parks police that day, Mickey’s offer train the agencies on the First and Fourth Amendments proves the NPPA’s commitment to a free press, and the journalists at KGTV are grateful.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, California, detained, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Regulations limiting photography, trespass | No Comments »

NPPA Sends Letter Opposing Proposed Anti-Paparazzi Statutes in California

April 23rd, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 *** UPDATE *** In the wake of opposition from NPPA and other groups the CA Assembly Judiciary Committee made both AB-1256 and AB-1356 “2 year bills.” A 2 year bill is one which will not move out of the policy committee this year. It is eligible to be taken up again at the beginning of the 2nd year of the biennial session thus the term “2 year bill.” In January, the Legislature will hear all bills introduced in the 1st year and those that pass muster will begin to move through the process. This is very significant because every other anti-paparazzi bill that has been introduced has flown through the Legislature. This is the first time one has been held up. While the AB-1256 and AB-1356 are not dead, this indicates the sponsors may have a difficult time getting out of Judiciary in January.

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) today sent a letter to California Assembly Member Richard Bloom opposing two recently filed anti-paparazzi statutes that he sponsored. The NPPA was joined by twenty-six other organizations in sending this letter, including the Associated Press Media Editors, Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Bloomberg News, North Jersey Media Group Inc., The New Yorker, E.W. Scripps Company, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association, The Associated Press, National Public Radio, Inc., The McClatchy Company, Reuters News, Time Inc., The Washington Post, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Picture Archive Council of America, Cox Media Group, American Society of News Editors, California Newspapers Partnership, The First Amendment Coalition, Courthouse News Service, The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, Association of Alternative Newsmedia and San Francisco Bay Media Associates.

The letter is written in opposition to proposed bill AB-1256, “An act to amend Section 1708.8 of, and to add Section 1708.9 to, the Civil Code, relating to civil law.” Proposed bill AB-1256 would expand upon California’s constructive invasion of privacy law. The letter also expresses opposition to AB-1356, “An act to amend Section 1708.7 of the Civil Code, relating to stalking,” which would enhance California’s anti-paparazzi statutes.

“We believe the creation of a civil cause of action for the “constructive invasion of privacy” is overly broad and vague and imposes greater civil penalties upon otherwise protected forms of speech and expression,” wrote Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA. Osterreicher continued, “We are also concerned that remedies for invasion of privacy and trespass are already properly addressed by current California statutes and that statutory and punitive damages will further chill free speech and create uncertainty about liability.” “Additionally,” stated Osterreicher, “the definition of “commercial purposes” fails to distinguish those acts done for valid newsgathering purposes and in fact penalizes publishers and broadcasters along with visual journalists and members of the public with a camera.”

In the letter Osterreicher cites recent Supreme Court cases which support NPPA’s position that AB-1256 and AB-1356 are unconstitutional, including U.S. v. Stevens, 559 U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 1577 (2010) (holding the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 unconstitutional); California v. Superior Court of California (Raef), Case No. BS140861 (holding California statute AB-2479, an anti-paparazzi statute, unconstitutional); and Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972) (holding that “without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated”).

In another related matter a California assembly member withdrew his proposed “ag-gag” bill hours before it was to be considered at a scheduled hearing.

The measure, AB-343, sponsored by Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, originally imposed a “duty to report animal cruelty” that would have required “any person who willfully or knowingly photographs, records or videotapes animal cruelty . . .” to “submit all original photographs, recordings or video to local law enforcement and the owner of the animal(s) or a representative of the owner within forty eight hours of taking such photographs, recordings or video.”

NPPA and other groups opposed the bill as violating the Shield Law provisions of the California Constitution and Code of Evidence; as well as being unconstitutional under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in that it abridged free speech and press and constituted an unreasonable seizure lacking in due process.

“The NPPA is very proud to have the support of so many state and national organizations in its fight against these ongoing First Amendment erosions,” said NPPA President Mike Borland. “We hope that lawmakers around the country will realize that there is a better way to address their constituent’s concerns than to propose unconstitutional bills,” he added.

Posted in ag-gag, anti-paparazzi, California, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Paparazzi, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »

Lawsuit Targets San Diego Law Enforcement Agencies for First Amendment Rights Violations

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

The American News and Information Services (ANIS) filed a Complaint Wednesday in federal district court seeking redress for the repeated violation of the First Amendment rights of an ANIS employee by San Diego City and County government officials.

The complaint alleges that San Diego law enforcement exhibited a pattern of First Amendment rights violations by giving law enforcement officers excessive discretion to prevent access to and recording of public safety activity.  It also alleges that the pattern is further evidenced by the San Diego Police Department’s (SDPD) exclusive authority to issue media credentials and the retaliatory actions taken against those who attempt to exercise their right to record.

“The SD Defendants, despite a revolution in access to news brought on by rapid technological advances, still seek through the use of government-issued press credentials control of the message through control of the messenger,” the complaint states.

James C. Playford, a National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) member who began work for ANIS after the SDPD refused to renew his press credentials, has been arrested four times since 2010 while attempting to cover public safety activities.  Three of those arrests resulted in the seizure of Playford’s equipment and raw video.  A photo and physical description of Playford was also allegedly disseminated to San Diego law enforcement identifying him as an individual prohibited from access to public safety activity.

San Diego law enforcement agencies have come under fire recently due to repeated arrests of photojournalists.  The NPPA sent a letter  to the SDPD and along with one from the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial County (ACLU) which they referenced on their website, requesting an end to police interference with photojournalists’ rights to record events occurring in public.  Wednesday’s letter was NPPA’s third letter to San Diego law enforcement this year concerning the rights of photojournalists.

“While the press may not have any greater access rights than the public to these incidents, they have no less rights either,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA, in his letter to the SDPD.  “Unfortunately a number of your officers have abused their discretion in limiting those press rights and then have detained and arrested our members when questioned about such discriminatory acts.”

In the most recent media controversy, NPPA member and freelance photojournalist Edward Baier was arrested on July 20th by the SDPD and charged with interfering with a police officer, though Baier claimed he was attempting to film from private property with the owner’s permission.  Baier said he was tackled by two officers during the altercation, causing him injuries requiring medical attention.

Baier’s arrest was his second this year by the SDPD.  In January, police told Baier to move away from the scene of a drowning, though the public was allowed to remain inside of the police tape.  When Baier protested, he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest.  The arresting officers later added two counts of assaulting an officer.

The NPPA sent a letter to the SDPD in January objecting to Baier’s arrest, and later sent a letter to the Office of the City Attorney requesting that Baier’s charges be dropped.

“The reliance by your officer to question, detain, interfere with, arrest and seize the property of someone engaged in a lawful activity under color of law is reprehensible,” Osterreicher said in his January letter to the SDPD.  “At best, behavior that chills free speech and unreasonably seizes property is extremely unprofessional, at worst it is criminal.”

Posted in Access, ACLU, ACLU of Dan Diego & Imperial County, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, confiscated, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording Police, San Diego Police Department, SDPD | No Comments »

You and Your Camera as One – In Your Heart and In the Eyes of the Law

July 12th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , ,

As assaults on photographers by citizens and the police have steadily increased in the past couple of years, it is important that you as a photographer know what your rights are if you are involved in one of these incidents.

A recent example of these altercations comes out of New York, where actor Alec Baldwin shoved photographer Marcus Santos outside of the Marriage Bureau.  Santos later filed a complaint with the New York Police Department.  Alec Baldwin claims that he didn’t punch Santos, and in an interview with David Letterman Baldwin claims that he was in fact only hitting the camera, not the photographer.

The truth of the matter is that Baldwin’s actions could have constituted battery without his ever laying a finger on Santos.  The rule in a majority of states in the country is that a person’s body need not be physically harmed to bring a claim of battery.  If unwanted and intentional contact occurs with something that is closely connected to the body such that it could be considered part of the plaintiff’s person, that contact can be treated as battery.

This can include a camera in one’s hand or around one’s neck.  In fact in one case in Rhode Island, a woman was awarded damages for assault and battery after her mechanic, who she took a picture of when she didn’t like the job he did, admitted to placing his hand on the camera that she was holding in an attempt to stop her from taking his picture.  Any unwanted touching of your camera can give rise to a lawsuit just as if your body was assaulted.  The law accords you a right to personal space and that personal space can be disturbed through physical harm, or simply through touching deemed offensive or violative of personal dignity.

If your camera is physically interfered with while in your possession, know that you may not only have the right to bring a civil suit for damages, but that the aggressor may also be criminally liable.

As photographers we often consider our cameras as extensions of ourselves.  We should take comfort knowing the law is in agreement.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Assault on Photographers, Cameras, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, Street Photography, video cameras | No Comments »

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 »

Boston paying $170k for videography arrest

March 27th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Boston Globe is reporting that the City of Boston has paid $170,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed against them after they arrested a man for photographing police activity on the Boston Commons.

The underlying case was the subject of an earlier appellate ruling which held that “peaceful recording of an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police officers’ performance of their duties is not reasonably subject to limitation.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 84 (1st Cir. 2011).

The case began over four years ago, when Simon Glik was walking past the Boston Commons and noticed three police officers arresting a man. An attorney who believed that the officers might be using excessive force, Glik began recording with his cell phone. Police arrested Glik and charged him with, among other things, violations of the wiretap statute. All charges against him were either dropped or dismissed and Glik filed a federal suit alleging that officers violated his civil rights. The officers argued official qualified immunity but the court denied it, and an appellate court upheld the ruling, holding that “a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011).

The Boston Police Department initially defended the officers and in 2008 issued a memo stating that the two officers involved did nothing wrong, but back in January the department stated that the two officers would face discipline and used “ureasonable judgment,” according to the Globe.

See other articles on the case by Massacusetts Lawyers Weekly, ARS Technica, and Carlos Miller’s blog.

Read an earlier NPPA post on the First Circuit decision of Glik v. Cunniffe.

Posted in Boston Police, Cameras, cell phone cameras, First Amendment, Massachusetts ACLU, Newsgathering, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording, Recording Police, video cameras, Wiretap Law | 1 Comment »

« Previous Entries Next Entries »