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.

Consent orders on arrests of journalists released as Ferguson awaits grand jury decision

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | November 21, 2014
News
November 21, 2014

(Editor's note: The Reporters Committee's hotline, 800-336-4243, will be available during any upcoming unrest for journalists who are interfered with while covering the news.)

As St. Louis anxiously awaits a grand jury decision on whether to indict the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, city, county and state officials have agreed to consent orders regarding the arrest of journalists to end litigation brought by the ACLU over earlier events in Ferguson.

Release of cell phone location tracking data raises First Amendment concerns, Reporters Committee argues

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | News | November 17, 2014
News
November 17, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today filed a brief in an important case assessing the constitutionality of warrantless acquisition of historical cell phone location data.

United States v. Davis

November 17, 2014

A panel of Eleventh Circuit judges held that the Fourth Amendment applies to requests for historical cell site location information. Prosecutors obtained over two months' worth of historical location information from a cell phone provider using a court order issued under the Stored Communications Act, which permits a court to order a service provider to turn over subscriber records but does not require a finding of probable cause that a crime has been committed. The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc, and the Reporters Committee filed a brief in support of the defendant's position. The Fourth Amendment question in the case, the Reporters Committee argued, is inextricably linked to First Amendment questions. Warrantless acquisition of cell phone location data is concerning because a record of where one goes, and for how long, lays bare the processes of investigative reporting and threatens to reveal confidential sources and methods.

Journalists, technologists discuss encryption at conference on digital security after Snowden

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | News | November 10, 2014
News
November 10, 2014

Update: The complete conference video is now online.


“Edward Snowden is not a model for journalism,” James Risen said at a conference on digital security practices last Friday. “If it is, we’re going to have a lot of lawyers — and a lot of problems.”

From left to right, James Risen of The New York Times, Julia Angwin of ProPublica, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU discuss the use of encryption by journalists.

All eyes on Ferguson as decision nears

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | November 7, 2014
News
November 7, 2014

The grand jury weighing whether or not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown is expected to deliver a decision by mid-November. But possible unrest could return to the city if the grand jury declines to indict next week, while police officials have still not addressed the treatment of journalists who covered the protests.

The protests following the Aug. 9 shooting prompted reports of police officers arresting and intimidating reporters who were trying to cover the story.

According to Officer Tim Zoll, a spokesman for the Ferguson Police Department, the department has no plans to change police treatment of media in Ferguson.

"The Ferguson Police Department is going to operate the same way we've always operated and our first concern is the safety of the public," said Zoll. "We hope the media is smart enough to take our advice."

Letter to DOJ, FBI regarding Seattle FBI media impersonation

November 6, 2014

The Reporters Committee led a media coalition protesting a Seattle FBI effort to use a fake Associated Press news article and web site to ensnare a criminal suspect. The protest letter was submitted to the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI.

Tech companies' announcement of new encryption policies prompts pushback from law enforcement

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | Commentary | October 21, 2014
Commentary
October 21, 2014

Last month, Google and Apple both announced that their next mobile operating systems would encrypt user data by default. Both Google and Apple also noted that the new forms of encryption would make it impossible for the companies to "unlock" encrypted phones, including in order to comply with lawful search warrants. These announcements have prompted officials to express concern about the risk that encryption will interfere with government's ability to investigate crime.

Forest Service says it never intended permit policy to regulate photojournalists

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | October 8, 2014
News
October 8, 2014

A controversial proposal to restrict wilderness photography and regulate commercial filming was never intended to require newsgatherers to obtain permits, according to the U.S. Forest Service. But the wording of the regulation will need to be changed to satisfy the concerns of a media coalition that has protested the policy.

The agency's director and spokesperson both said the service intends to allow for a wide interpretation of newsgathering, which is exempt from the permit process, that extends far beyond the narrow definition of "breaking news" that appears in the directive.

New Oklahoma policies restrict media access to executions

Tom Isler | Newsgathering | News | October 6, 2014
News
October 6, 2014

A new policy established by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections will severely restrict the media’s ability to witness state executions.

The new rules, which went into effect September 30, cut the number of media witnesses at any given execution from 12 to five, and give state officials discretion to close the viewing room or remove witnesses from the facility altogether if the condemned remains conscious five minutes into the lethal injection procedure.

Anderson v. Hagel

September 24, 2014

Freelance journalist Wayne Anderson had his "embed" status terminated by the military, and he was removed from Afghanistan. Anderson claimed the termination was in retaliation for his coverage of a conflict between Afghan and American soldiers. His case was dismissed by a federal judge over jurisdictional and service issues. In this brief on appeal, the Reporters Committee argued that Anderson sufficiently pleaded a First Amendment retaliation claim, as a pro se litigant, and the District Court should not have dismissed the claim so early.