Briefs & Comments

  • December 22, 2016

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice regarding its implementation of a "Release to One, Release to All" policy for the federal Freedom of Information Act. The comments were based on an RCFP survey of journalists concerning various aspects of posting records responsive to FOIA requests online.

  • December 12, 2016

    University of Virginia administrator Nicole P. Eramo sued Rolling Stone LLC, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and Wenner Media LLC for an article posted on Rolling Stone's website entitled "A Rape on Campus." The jury found Erdely liable for her reporting, and found that while Rolling Stone was not liable for defamation when the article was posted on November 19, 2014 because it had no actual malice then, appending an editor's note on top of the original page was a republication of the article, and the news site thus became liable only after that was done. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and eight media companies argued in support of the publishers' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict that editor’s notes serve the public interest, and publishers should not be penalized for informing the public of developing information and explaining their newsgathering decisions when inaccuracies are discovered.

  • November 4, 2016

    The Reporters Committee led a coalition of 29 media organizations in intervening in a French high court case between Google and the CNIL, the French privacy authority that enforces the data privacy directive. Google had been ordered to delist certain articles from its search results when searches are conducted by name. Google had complied with the demains within Europe, but the CNIL had ordered that the delisting command apply to Google domains worldwide.  The media coalition argued that French authorities had no right to force their interests on Internet users in other countries, and allowing such worldwide restrictions in the interest of enforcing domestic law would lead many other countries to try to restrict Internet access. The coalition brief was written with attorneys from WilmerHale.

  • November 4, 2016

    The Reporters Committee led a coalition of 29 media organizations in intervening in a French high court case between Google and the CNIL, the French privacy authority that enforces the data privacy directive. Google had been ordered to delist certain articles from its search results when searches are conducted by name. Google had complied with the demains within Europe, but the CNIL had ordered that the delisting command apply to Google domains worldwide.  The media coalition argued that French authorities had no right to force their interests on Internet users in other countries, and allowing such worldwide restrictions in the interest of enforcing domestic law would lead many other countries to try to restrict Internet access. The coalition brief was written with attorneys from WilmerHale.

  • November 1, 2016

    The Reporters Committee, joined by 31 news organizations, filed a brief in the Third Circuit in support of two individuals who had been arrested for photographing police officers during arrests. The district court in Philadelphia had held that individuals have no First Amendment right to record officers in public unless they do so to criticize the police. The amicus brief argued that photos and videos provided by citizens and bystandards are valuable to the news media and the public, and taking such images should be encouraged.

  • October 28, 2016

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the Second Circuit with 26 media organizations arguing that details of an auditor’s report of HSBC Bank should be public. The auditor reports the bank’s compliance with a deferred prosecution agreement, as part of which HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion for money laundering. The brief argued that there is an overwhelming public interest in access to court documents involving newsworthy material, and that unsealing the monitor’s report will serve the vital functions of discouraging government misconduct and promoting informed public discourse.

  • October 6, 2016

    Christopher Porco filed a right of publicity claim under New York Civil Rights Law Section 51, arguing that Lifetime's broadcast of a film about his crime was "substantially fictionalized" and for commercial purposes. The Reporters Committee focused on the fact that under the statute, Lifetime could only be held liable if it broadcast the film “for advertising or for purposes of trade.” Having such a narrow scope, Section 51 did not apply to the docudrama, which did not use the plaintiff’s likeness for either of these reasons but rather to describe an actual event of public interest.

  • 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.

  • October 3, 2016

    A Canadian court ordered Google to remove links to a company's products from its search engine worldwide, not just in Canada. Google appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Reporters Committee and a coalition of American media companies intervened to argue that such worldwide takedown demands are overbroad and will have a seriously detrimental effect on freedom of expression, particularly if other countries impose similarly sweeping restrictions to enforce their own laws.

  • September 30, 2016

    A Hungarian journalist at abcug.hu, an online news portal, was denied access to two Hungarian refugee camps. A report by the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights described these conditions as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. His requests were denied based on the privacy interests of the refugees. The Reporters Committee joined a coalition that intervened in the case, arguing that European Union law allowed journalists to report on important public controversies like this.

  • September 29, 2016

    Reporter Mattathias Schwatz filed a FOIA lawsuit challenging the DEA's refusal to release a video of a May 2012 DEA-led raid in Honduras that involved the use of deadly force against civilians. The government maintained the video fell within the scope of Exemption 7(E), which protects law enforcement techniques and procedures. After an in-camera review of the video and several declarations, the district court held that the video was not exempt and ordered it released. The DEA appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit.

  • September 26, 2016

    In this case, the District Court recognized that the nondisclosure requirements in a National Security Letter statute (18 U.S.C. § 2709(c)) amount to a prior restraint, it nonetheless applied a lesser level of scrutiny than prior restraints receive. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Reporters Committee argued the district court's permissive standard is only appropriate in limited circumstances, such as licensing regimes for obscene movies. Section 2709(c), on the other hand, restrains speech on matters of public concern. The brief concluded that a ruling by the Ninth Circuit finding the nondisclosure provision is anything less than a classic prior restraint - requiring the highest burden on the government - will weaken essential constitutional protections guaranteeing the free flow of information to the public.

  • September 16, 2016

    Resolute sued Greenpeace in federal court in Georgia (S.D. Ga., Augusta division) for counts including five separate racketeering violations, defamation, tortious interference with business relations, and trademark dilution. Greenpeace filed motions to dismiss and to strike in early September, emphasizing the application of Georgia's amended anti-SLAPP statute in federal court and Resolute's attempt to "masquerade" what is really a defamation claim as a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"). The Reporters Committee and other amici argued first that Resolute cannot be permitted to circumvent the First Amendment by disguising a defamation claim as a RICO violation. Resolute attempted to silence and penalize speech about a matter of public concern, which, if upheld, would undoubtedly cause a chilling effect on speech.

  • September 9, 2016

    Various New Jersey governmental entities argued that citizens of states other than New Jersey should not be allowed to use the Open Public Records Act. The Reporters Committee and a coalition of 18 newsmedia organizations argued that (1) members of the news media play a crucial role in keeping the public informed that is unrelated to the citizenship or geographic location of the journalists involved, and (2) that journalists and news organizations located outside of New Jersey have used OPRA to report on matters of immense importance for both citizens of that state and the country as a whole

  • September 2, 2016

    Microsoft challenged the federal law that allows the Department of Justice to impose gag orders, often permanently, on communications services providers when served with a search warrant for their customers' records. The Reporters Committee, joined by a coalition of 29 other media organizations, argued that the gag orders function as prior restraints that interfere with the news media's right to receive information, interfere with the right of access to court records, and threaten the confidential relationship between reporters and their sources. The brief was written with attorneys with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.