Newsgathering

This section covers many of the issues that journalists encounter as they're on the streets trying to gather news, including being stopped by police for reporting on or photographing at an emergency scene, being held back because you've been denied credentials, and being kept off of public or private property while covering a story. While reporters don't have a greater right of access than the general public, officials sometimes go out of their way to interfere with journalists simply because they are reporting to a larger audience. This section also covers controversies involving interviewing prisoners.

Intercept publisher calls for Ferguson investigation over arrest of reporter

Newsgathering | News | August 28, 2014
News
August 28, 2014

The publisher of The Intercept earlier this week called on the Missouri attorney general to launch an investigation into the arrest of reporter, Ryan Devereaux, during last week's protests in Ferguson, Mo.

First Look Media detailed how Devereaux, while with a reporter from the German newspaper Bild, was interviewing protesters when police started firing tear gas. After leaving the area as instructed, he was hit by rubber bullets fired by police. He was taken to jail, detained overnight and charged with "refusing to disperse." The publisher has not been able to obtain information about the status of the charges against him and police have not returned their calls, the Aug. 25 letter reports.

Elonis v. United States

August 22, 2014

The case interprets 18 U.S.C. 875(c), which prohibits interstate transmission of a threatening communication. Mr. Elonis posted on his Facebook page several raps about his ex-wife and the judge presiding over their child custody battle. The appeal turns on whether "true threats" -- which are not protected speech -- should be evaluated based on the speaker's subjective intent to threaten, or based on whether an objective/reasonable listener would take the statements as threats. We argue that a subjective intent test is necessary to protect members of the media and provide the broadest leeway for protected commentary, satire and reporting. We do not argue that Mr. Elonis should escape liability for his statements, but rather that the test the lower court applied was erroneous.

Media coalition protests police treatment of reporters during Ferguson events

Press Release | August 15, 2014
August 15, 2014
Media coalition protests police treatment of reporters during Ferguson events

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press led a coalition of 48 national media organizations that sent a protest letter objecting to the treatment of reporters during the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown.

The letter was sent to the heads of the city and county police, as well as the state highway patrol.

"Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes," the letter states. "The actions in Ferguson demonstrate a lack of training among local law enforcement in the protections required by the First Amendment as well as the absence of respect for the role of newsgatherers. We implore police leadership to rectify this failing to ensure that these incidents do not occur again."

Media coalition protest letter regarding police detention of journalists in Ferguson, Missouri, and public access to information

August 15, 2014

The Reporters Committee led a coalition of 48 media organizations in protesting the treatment of journalists and withholding of important information in the aftermath of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Free press groups petition Attorney General on behalf of journalist James Risen

Emily Grannis | Newsgathering | News | August 14, 2014
News
August 14, 2014

More than 100,000 people, including 20 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition submitted to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder today urging the administration to rethink its policy of subpoenaing journalists to reveal their sources.

Seven representatives of free press organizations announced the delivery of the petition at the National Press Club this afternoon and called on the administration to drop its threatened subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

Risen has been fighting since 2007 to protect a confidential source he used in writing a book about the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined the panel at the press conference today.

Jewel v. NSA

July 31, 2014

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the NSA and government agencies on behalf of AT&T customers. EFF argues that the government's dragnet surveillance of AT&T customers' communications is unconstitutional. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and 18 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of EFF's motion for partial summary judgment. The media coalition argues that widespread surveillance has a corrosive effect on journalists' ability to report on matters of public interest. Journalists rely on confidentiality when developing stories about sensitive topics, but reporters and editors at major news outlets have said that NSA surveillance programs have made sources less willing to talk with them.

Texas ethics board fines activist and news writer for not registering as lobbyist

Jamie Schuman | Newsgathering | News | July 28, 2014
News
July 28, 2014

The Texas Ethics Commission fined the head of a conservative advocacy group for failing to register as a lobbyist, but the organization’s leader argues that he should not have to pay because he runs a media organization.

Michael Quinn Sullivan is president of Empower Texans, which provides news and information to promote fiscal responsibility in the state government. In June, the ethics commission fined Sullivan $10,000 after finding that he is a paid lobbyist who failed to register in 2010 and 2011.

Sullivan plans to file an appeal in state court, said his attorney, Joseph Nixon of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons.

The commission explained that even if Sullivan performs some journalistic activities he does not qualify for the lobbyist registration statute's media exception because he does other work as well.

Washington Post correspondent, other journalists arrested in Iran

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Newsgathering | News | July 25, 2014
News
July 25, 2014

A Tehran-based Washington Post reporter and others have been arrested in Iran on unspecified charges.

Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, director general of the Tehran Province Justice Department, confirmed Friday that a Washington Post correspondent and his wife, who is also a reporter, had been detained for questioning.

Reporters Committee argues against "blaming the messenger" in dismissed surveillance case

Press Release | July 11, 2014
July 11, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press yesterday filed an amicus brief critical of a federal court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from the New York City Police Department’s systematic, undercover surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.

In its February ruling in Hassan v. The City of New York, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey denied standing to Muslim plaintiffs who claimed that the NYPD’s surveillance of them violated their civil rights. The court reasoned that the Associated Press caused any alleged harm when it uncovered the program, and that the plaintiffs had no right to sue the government.

Hassan v. The City of New York

July 10, 2014

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a civil rights case, finding that the Muslim plaintiffs who alleged that the NYPD's surveillance of them violated their civil rights did not have standing to sue. The court found that the harm caused by the surveillance program was attributable to the news reporting of the Associated Press in breaking news of the surveillance. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and North Jersey Media Group Inc. argued in this brief that the court's decision to blame the media instead of the government entity that ran the surveillance program misapplies the law of Article III standing. It also threatens the protections that the Supreme Court has given to the free press, and ignores that the AP's reporting fits into the American tradition of watchdog journalism that has led to important debate and reform.