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.

Riley v. Calif.; U.S. v. Wurie

March 10, 2014

The Reporters Committee joined an amicus brief in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court examining the issue of warrantless searches of the cell phones of arrested suspects. In this brief, written by attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine, we argued that Fourth Amendment law must acknowledge the role that smart phones play in modern society and particularly with journalists, and the information is clearly of a personal nature sufficient to demand that officers obtain a search warrant before examining the records on such phones.

Newspaper files suit after reporters detained outside Defense contractor plant in Ohio

Michael Rooney | Newsgathering | News | April 7, 2014
News
April 7, 2014

The Toledo Blade filed a lawsuit Friday against various military officials after reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser were detained March 28 outside a contractor-operated Department of Defense facility in Lima, Ohio.

According to the complaint, filed in a U.S. district court in Ohio, the journalists intended to take "file" photos for the newspaper's future use with stories related to the plant. They parked on a public road in front of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center and took photographs of the outside of the facility, according to the complaint.

They began to leave but were stopped by military police and detained for an hour, according to the complaint. Their equipment was confiscated, and their photos were deleted.

Ex Parte Ronald Thompson

March 18, 2014

Under Texas Penal Code § 21.15, a person commits a felony if he or she “photographs [or otherwise records] . . . a visual image of another” in any location “without the other person’s consent” and “with [the] intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire” of the photographer or a third party. This amicus brief, written for the Reporters Committee by the UCLA School of Law First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, argues that the statute is a content-based restriction on the creation of constitutionally protected speech, and is therefore unconstitutional under the extremely demanding “strict scrutiny” test.

Filling in the background

Public bodies move to requiring background checks for press credentials when safety is an issue
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Michael Rooney

On January 8, Maryland became the latest state to require criminal background checks for journalists covering the state house. The new credentialing requirement is part of an ongoing movement across the country of state and local jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, Chicago and Los Angeles, to come down on the side of regulation while balancing public safety concerns and greater press access.

Beginning with the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly, even those reporters with previous, unexpired press credentials are required to undergo a criminal background check to comply with the new rules, according to a December 6, 2013, press release from Governor Martin O’Malley.

New York City settles for $18 million over RNC arrests of journalists, protesters

Cindy Gierhart | Newsgathering | News | January 16, 2014
News
January 16, 2014

The city of New York has reached an $18 million settlement over the arrest of roughly 1,800 protesters, journalists, and bystanders at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Journalists, often those who were not credentialed, were among the many swept into holding pens at Pier 57 in New York City, some held for a couple hours and others held well over 24 hours. The conditions in the detention facilities – a former bus depot along the Hudson River – were described as filthy with poor ventilation, according to the New York Times.

Presidential review group urges reform of FISA Court and end to bulk metadata collection

Jamie Schuman | Newsgathering | News | December 18, 2013
News
December 18, 2013

A group appointed by President Obama to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended today that the government end bulk storage of telephone metadata, and, instead, contact private companies directly in the individual cases that it needs that information.

The panel also called on the government to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by creating a public interest advocate to represent privacy and civil liberties interests; instituting declassification reviews to increase the court's transparency; and dividing the power to appoint judges to the FISC among the Supreme Court justices. The group also recommended that the government not undermine efforts to create encryption standards.

Utah "ag-gag" law interferes with First Amendment rights, Reporters Committee argues

Press Release | December 11, 2013
December 11, 2013
Utah "ag-gag" law interferes with First Amendment rights, Reporters Committee argues

Protection of the nation’s food sources and the First Amendment are endangered by a Utah law banning audio and image recording at meat-processing plants, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued in a brief filed in federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The “ag-gag” statute, which makes it a criminal offense to record activities at these plants, “weakens food safety guarantees at the same time it stifles free speech,” the Reporters Committee argued in a friend-of-the-court brief joined by 16 news organizations.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Herbert

December 10, 2013

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief on behalf of several news organizations in support of a challenge to Utah's "agricultural operation interference" statute, or "ag-gag" law, arguing that the restrictions interfere with the First Amendment rights of those who want to inform the public about important matters involving food safety.

Letter to Home Affairs Committee (U.K.)

December 2, 2013

The Reporters Committee submitted a letter, joined by 12 news organizations, to the U.K. parliament's Home Affairs Committee in advance of its hearing where Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has been compelled to testify about national security implications of its reporting on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Washington Times sues Homeland Security for seizing reporting materials

Latara Appleby | Newsgathering | News | November 22, 2013
News
November 22, 2013

The Washington Times is suing the Department of Homeland Security in Maryland federal court for what it alleges was an unlawful search and seizure of a reporter's newsgathering material.

Former Times reporter Audrey Hudson’s home was searched by the Maryland State Police and federal officials on Aug. 6. The warrant permitted them to search for unregistered firearms and a potato launcher belonging to Hudson’s husband. But officials also took documents from the home, including Hudson's reporting notes naming confidential sources in the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Air Marshal Service.