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.

Judge disallows rioting charge against "Democracy Now" host

Andrea Perez | Newsgathering | News | October 17, 2016
October 17, 2016

"Democracy Now!" journalist Amy Goodman announced to a crowd outside the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, N.D., that Judge John Grinsteiner refused to formalize charges against her for participating in a riot while she was covering a pipeline protest in the state.

Goodman originally faced a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in response to her Sept. 3 coverage of a protest against the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. She learned the trespass charge was dropped when she returned to North Dakota to continue reporting on the protests, but late last week learned that the state's attorney wanted to bring a more serious charge of participating in a riot.

Askins v. DHS

October 3, 2016

Plaintiffs Ray Askins and Christian Ramirez sued the Department of Homeland Security to challenge policies of Customs and Border Protection that ban photography at United States ports of entry without advanced permission from CBP. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs, arguing that policies that restrict the news media's ability to photograph or record activity at the US border impinge upon the press's constitutionally protected rights to gather news and report on matters of public concern. We argued that photography and recording are essential elements of reporting on matters of public concern, including those that arise at the border; that strong public policy rationales underlie a First Amendment right to photograph public officials such as CBP officials; and that national security concerns do not provide a compelling interest that justifies the CBP photography policies.

Anatomy of a brief: Reporters Committee supports challenges to "ag-gag" statutes

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Michael Lambert

In June, the Reporters Committee filed friend-of-the-court briefs in two federal courts asserting a similar argument — laws criminalizing the recording of agricultural production facilities, known as “ag-gag” statutes, are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Numerous states have enacted “ag-gag” laws in recent years that punish those who make audio or video recordings at agricultural facilities without the consent of the facility owner. Although the particular language of each statute varies from state-to-state, the laws effectively ban undercover reporting on the agricultural industry and gag speech critical of agricultural practices. In turn, the public’s ability to learn about potentially dangerous and unethical conditions at agricultural facilities is stifled.

Pentagon revises war manual to emphasize protections for journalists

Sophie Murguia | Newsgathering | News | July 28, 2016
July 28, 2016

The Pentagon has updated its Law of War manual to clarify that journalists are generally protected as civilians under international law. The changes, announced last week, came after media groups expressed concern that some language in the original version could put reporters at risk of being considered spies or combatants.

The manual, first released in 2015, is the Department of Defense’s guide to international law as it applies to the U.S. military. The original manual drew criticism for saying that although journalists are usually civilians, they can sometimes be “unprivileged belligerents” — a category that includes guerrillas and spies.

Letter to Cleveland Mayor, Police Chief on gas mask restrictions

July 14, 2016

The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news organizations wrote to the Cleveland mayor and police chief, objecting to the city's policy banning gas masks during protests. We argued that journalists, who would not be engaged in the activity that prompts the use of tear gas, need to cover these newsworthy events, and that police should allow credentialed journalists to carry them near the protests and parades.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden

June 27, 2016

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and other organizations challenged Idaho Code Ann. § 18-7042, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The law criminalizes audio and video recording at agriculture facilities. The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho struck down the law. The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of Plaintiffs-Appellees. The brief argues that journalists and whistleblowers who serve as their sources have improved food safety and agriculture facility conditions through the years by exposing violations. Idaho's "ag-gag" statue infringes upon the First Amendment rights of those seeking to disseminate information to the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.

Champions of First Amendment honored

Reporters Committee dinner fetes four with Freedom of the Press Awards
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Debra Gersh Hernandez

Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan Co.

Tom Brokaw receives the Fred Graham Distinguished Service Award from Lester Holt.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press hosted its 2016 Freedom of the Press Awards Dinner at The Pierre in New York City on May 17, honoring Eve Burton and the Office of General Counsel at Hearst, and Alberto Ibargüen and Eric Newton of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Tom Brokaw, NBC News special correspondent, received the Fred Graham Distinguished Service Award.

"NBC Nightly News" and "Dateline" Anchor Lester Holt was the host.

Convention coverage

Reporters Committee hotlines to help journalists covering political conventions
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As it has done for the political conventions over the last 40 years, the Reporters Committee will maintain journalist hotlines during the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer. The Republican convention will be held July 18-21 in Cleveland, and the Democrats will meet July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

The Reporters Committee hotlines are staffed by local lawyers who will be available to help if a journalist gets swept up in an arrest during protests or other convention activity. Lawyers from Levine Sullivan in Philadelphia and BakerHostetler in Cleveland will head up the hotline teams this year. Specific details, including numbers to call and information on what to do if you are arrested while covering the events, will be available on the Reporters Committee's site in early July.

Impersonating the news media

Reporters Committee, AP use FOIA to get info on FBI guidelines on when it's okay, and when it isn't
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Hannah Bloch-Wehba

The FBI recently released documents, apparently for the first time, that set out the rules and procedures the agency must follow when it impersonates the media during undercover investigations. The documents were released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed last August by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and The Associated Press.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Herbert

June 7, 2016

Two animal protection organizations and a woman arrested while documenting events at an agricultural site from a public road have challenged Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The statute criminalizes recording images and sounds of agricultural production facilities without the facility owner's express consent. The Reporters Committee, joined by 17 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Amici explain that journalists and other organizations have a long history of improving food safety by exposing violations in agriculture productions. Utah's "ag-gag" statute interferes with the First Amendment rights of those continuing to inform the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.