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.

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.

Electronic Arts, Inc. v. Brown

April 18, 2016

Former NFL fullback James (Jim) Brown claims Electronic Arts violated his right of publicity after including his biographical and statistical information in Madden NFL, a video game that allows users to simulate NFL games and play as their favorite NFL players. The Reporters Committee, with eight other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal arguing that the First Amendment shields EA's limited use of Brown's likeness in a constitutionally protected video game because it contains speech on matters of public interest and does not survive strict scrutiny as a content-based restriction. Brown's claims are also barred under California's public affairs exemption and applicable case law. Amici further contend EA's speech must be protected to prevent chilling effects on speech and encourage the news industry to continue evolving as technology advances.

Six degrees of Antonin Scalia

Reporters Committee letter prompts apology from Justice
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As legal scholars and friends remember the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia so, too, does the Reporters Committee recall an exchange in 2004, when a letter of concern over erasure of reporters' recordings of remarks by the Justice garnered an apology for the incident in a personal note of reply.

In April 2004, reporters from The Associated Press and The Hattiesburg (Miss.) American were ordered by U.S. Marshals to erase recordings of comments presented by Scalia during an event at Presbyterian Christian High School in Hattiesburg. Although the event was open to the press, Scalia had requested that it not be recorded.

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
News
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.