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.

People v. Raef

November 10, 2015

Photographer Paul Raef was charged under California Vehicle Code 40008 for violating general driving laws while having the "intent to capture any type of visual image . . . for a commercial purpose.” When Raef challenged the constitutionality of the law, the California Superior Court found the statute unconstitutional because it targeted First Amendment activity and was overinclusive. The Court of Appeal reversed. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the National Press Photographers Association, and six other amici filed a friend-of-the-court letter with the California Supreme Court, asking the Court to review the Court of Appeal’s decision. The Reporters Committee argued that Section 40008 is not a law of general applicability and it has more than an incidental effect on speech. Furthermore, amici believe the Court of Appeal erred in giving undue deference to police and prosecutors in enforcing this vague law that can harm traditional journalists.

Photographic metadata helps convict officer over arrest of journalist

Soo Rin Kim | Newsgathering | News | November 20, 2015
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November 20, 2015

Photographic evidence recently helped a New York trial judge find a New York City police officer guilty of fabricating a record to justify his arrest of a freelance photographer back in 2012.

Officer Michael Ackermann arrested New York Times freelancer Robert Stolarik as he was taking pictures of a street fight in the Bronx.

Ackermann testified in court documents that officers had been giving out a number of disperse orders when Stolarik blinded Ackermann and interfered with arrests of others on the street by flashing his camera light at the officer’s face.

The delayed flight of the news drones

The FAA missed its deadline to integrate drones, creating a setback for the U.S. in the global drone movement
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Jennevieve Fong

An image from a drone shows damage from California wildfires in September.

The Federal Aviation Association missed its deadline for the integration of drones into the nation's airspace, leaving unresolved the issue of how and when the news media might be able to use drones in newsgathering.

Congress mandated this Sept. 30, 2015, deadline in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

According to NBC News, an FAA spokesperson stated final regulations for drones should be in place “late next spring.”

Turning on body-worn cameras

Police discover the obvious: bodycams only work when they're turned on
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Soo Rin Kim

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

With strong financial support from the federal government, police body-worn cameras are quickly becoming an essential tool for police accountability across the country. Debates about who should get access to bodycam recordings and when are raging across the country, but what if recordings of the most critical moments don’t even exist in the first place?

Two recent incidents in San Diego prove an obvious rule — bodycams are only worthwhile when they are turned on.

Appellate court reinstates surveillance case against New York police

Soo Rin Kim | Newsgathering | News | October 29, 2015
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October 29, 2015

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) ruled last week that Muslim plaintiffs can pursue a lawsuit against the City of New York for its police department’s secret surveillance of their communities in New Jersey.

“No one should ever be spied on and treated like a suspect simply because of his or her faith,” lead plaintiff of the lawsuit, Farhaj Hassan told Muslim Advocates.

The decision reinstates a case that had been dismissed after the district court judge found that the harm had been caused by the AP's reporting on the police surveillance, not by the police department itself.

Charges against reporters in Ferguson highlight continuing problems

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Gregg Leslie

AP Photo/The Washington Post, Wesley Lowery

A police officer confronts Wesley Lowery in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

This article first appeared on the blog of the American Constitution Society

Reporters Committee-led coalition calls on Ferguson officials to drop charges against reporters

Press Release | August 18, 2015
August 18, 2015
Reporters Committee-led coalition calls on Ferguson officials to drop charges against reporters

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by 38 other news outlets and media organizations, has sent a letter to St. Louis County officials protesting the recent filing of criminal charges against two reporters over incidents that occurred during the protests in Ferguson, Mo., last summer.

"The best way for Ferguson to show that it will respect the First Amendment rights of journalists covering the continuing controversy there is to rescind these charges immediately," the letter stated.

"The fact that these journalists were kept from doing their jobs was troublesome enough. But the fact that your office – after having had time to reflect on police actions for a full year – has chosen to pursue criminal prosecution now is astonishing," the letter also noted.

Protest letter regarding Ferguson charges against journalists

August 18, 2015

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a 39-member media coalition protesting the decision of St. Louis County officials to press charges against several journalists arrested last year covering the events in Ferguson, Mo.

Idaho federal court strikes down "ag-gag" law

Kimberly Chow | Newsgathering | News | August 4, 2015
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August 4, 2015

The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho struck down Idaho’s “ag-gag” law, which criminalized undercover investigations in which animal cruelty was filmed and publicized.

A coalition of animal right groups and activists challenged the law, and the Reporters Committee led a coalition of sixteen news organizations in filing an amicus brief in December, arguing that the law infringed on constitutionally protected newsgathering rights.

Those who paid the price

Jailed journalists gather to tell their stories, advocate for reporter's shield law
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Kimberly Chow

Brian Karem moderates a panel of journalists who have spent time caged by the state for doing their jobs at a National Press Club Freedom of the Press event, June 1, 2015. Panelists from left to right are Josh Wolf, Brad Stone, Lisa Abraham, Vanessa Leggett, Judith Miller (obscured) Brad Stone, Roxana Kopetman and Libby Averyt.

Going to jail to protect a source, whether for a weekend or several months, comes with a heavy price for journalists — and the unpleasantness of the experience can last for years.