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.

"Citizenfour" filmmakers move to dismiss federal lawsuit

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Tom Isler

Still from citizenfour

A lawsuit over Edward Snowden's actions, detailed in the documentary "citizenfour," prompted a private lawsuit.

The makers of Citizenfour, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about Edward Snowden, have moved to dismiss a federal civil lawsuit that alleges they aided and abetted the “illegal and morally wrongful acts” of Snowden.

Judge slaps whistleblowers with $1.61 million fine for talking to media

Kimberly Chow | Newsgathering | News | January 29, 2015
January 29, 2015

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg has fined two whistleblowers in Atlanta for contacting members of the media during a five-year period while the suit was under seal.

Whistleblowers Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly, mortgage brokers at U.S. Financial Services Inc., discussed the case confidentially with FOX investigative reporters nearly four years after they initially filed their complaint but a year before the case was unsealed. Their punishment, imposed in a January 5 order, is to pay a $1.61 million fine. The order was first reported by the Atlanta legal newspaper The Daily Report.

People v. Raef

November 3, 2014

Photographer Paul Raef was prosecuted under California Vehicle Code 40008, basically an anti-paparazzi law that imposes additional penalties on violators of generally applicable reckless driving laws when those violators are driving with the intent to gather news for commercial purposes. The Reporters Committee and seven other groups argued that the law imposes an additional punishment for driving while being a journalist and threatens the First Amendment right of newsgathering. It punishes both paparazzi and members of the mainstream media who are traveling with the intent of gathering news. The law could be used to harass journalists. The amicus coalition submitted a letter brief to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Four, asking for the court to grant Raef's petition for transfer or, in the alternative, for a writ of mandamus. The court denied Raef's petition for transfer and for writ of mandamus.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden

December 4, 2014

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the attorney general of Idaho over Idaho's "ag gag" law, which imposes penalties for "agricultural production interference," in essence recording images and sounds on the property of agricultural production facilities. It punishes people who investigate such facilities' cruelty to animals and other unsafe food practices. In supporting the plaintiff's push for a decision in their favor before a federal district court, the Reporters Committee argued that the Idaho law infringes on First Amendment rights of people who want to inform the public about important matters such as food safety. It fails to survive strict scrutiny because it does not further the government's interest in promoting food safety and is not narrowly tailored.

Ferguson and the right to photograph police

The summer protests shined a spotlight on coverage issues, and warned of things to come
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Kimberly Chow

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Protesters march on Nov. 23 in St. Louis, before the grand jury returned a decision.

While the country awaited a grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, in late November, the protests following the death of Michael Brown in August served as an early reminder that members of the press can often be swept up as part of the story they are covering. As journalists vigorously covered the public unrest, many found themselves harassed or placed under arrest simply for engaging in the activity of filming or photographing the police activity around the protests. Some had guns pointed at them, and others were held overnight.

Beyond PGP

The institutional news media's approach to digital security
Cover Story
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Kimberly Chow

Panelists Jack Gillum of the Associated Press; Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing; Morgan Marquis-Boire of First Look Media, and Nabiha Syed, of Levine Sullivan Koch and Schulz discuss digital security issues with moderator Marcia Hofmann.

The main impediment to implementing digital security in traditional newsrooms may be that reporters avoid learning about it and news organizations don't dedicate appropriate resources to it, according to panelists at a November 7 conference cosponsored by the Reporters Committee.

The panel, composed of an Associated Press journalist, a digital security expert, a media lawyer, a digital media commentator, and a digital rights lawyer, discussed the ways that the institutional press is currently protecting its writers and the many ways it can do better.

Standard Practices

Examining Internet, cloud storage and social networking providers
Cover Story
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Amelia Rufer

Before trading in the park bench for a Gmail account, journalists must decide if technology companies’ terms of service are enough to protect their sources from government surveillance.

Online service providers Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo include policies in their terms of service that require the government to obtain a warrant for content and that promise to notify users if the government requests their information.

Encryption: Is it enough, or too much?

And is the Snowden situation the exception, or the new rule?
Cover Story
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Hannah Bloch-Wehba

James Risen of The New York Times; Julia Angwin of ProPublica; Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project discuss real-world encryption problems for journalists.

Journalists worldwide are turning to enhanced operational security to safeguard their communications from surveillance. But panelists at the "News Organizations and Digital Security" conference on Nov. 7 emphasized that encryption-based tools, while important, are of limited utility so long as they remain uncommon and difficult to use.

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

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