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.

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.

 

Smith v. Obama

September 9, 2014

The Reporters Committee, joined by 17 other news organizations, submitted an amicus brief in a federal case against the federal government over its collection of telephone log records. Plaintiff Anna Smith filed a lawsuit against the government alleging that its mass collection and logging of telephone call data violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief, and granted the government's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiff. Citing the close relationship between the First and Fourth Amendments, the Reporters Committee urged the Ninth Circuit on appeal to consider the impact of mass, indiscriminate government call tracking on the ability of the press to gather and disseminate news of public importance.

Letter to Dept. of Justice on Ferguson investigations

September 22, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter on behalf of 44 news organizations to the Department of Justice urging officials to include police interaction with the press and public in the investigation of the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August.

Smartrecordings

Apps that record phone calls are convenient, but can present confidentiality risks
Feature
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Jamie Schuman

iStockphoto.com

Reporters frequently cite mobile apps that record phone calls as among their favorites, according to David Ho, The Wall Street Journal’s editor for Mobile, Tablets & Emerging Technology, who has trained some 1,500 journalists on how to use tech tools in their work.

But reporters might not realize that these apps often store the recordings of calls on their own servers or the cloud — and then send a copy to the user’s cell phone. This means third parties can access the information, which raises questions about who owns the recording and whether communications with sources are confidential.

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."