Newsgathering

Pentagon revises war manual to emphasize protections for journalists

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

Appellate court reinstates surveillance case against New York police

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

Idaho federal court strikes down "ag-gag" law

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

Reporters Committee calls on White House to support strong encryption for journalists

Jenn Henrichsen | Commentary | May 22, 2015
Commentary
May 22, 2015

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) joined nearly 150 civil society groups, businesses, and trade groups in a letter to the White House urging it to not succumb to pressure to build in exceptions to encryption for law enforcement.

"Citizenfour" filmmakers move to dismiss federal lawsuit

Tom Isler | Commentary | February 13, 2015
Commentary
February 13, 2015

The makers of Citizenfour, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about Edward Snowden, have moved to dismiss a federal civil lawsuit that alleges they aided and abetted the “illegal and morally wrongful acts” of Snowden.

Texas ethics board fines activist and news writer for not registering as lobbyist

Jamie Schuman | Newsgathering | News | July 28, 2014
News
July 28, 2014

The Texas Ethics Commission fined the head of a conservative advocacy group for failing to register as a lobbyist, but the organization’s leader argues that he should not have to pay because he runs a media organization.

Michael Quinn Sullivan is president of Empower Texans, which provides news and information to promote fiscal responsibility in the state government. In June, the ethics commission fined Sullivan $10,000 after finding that he is a paid lobbyist who failed to register in 2010 and 2011.

Sullivan plans to file an appeal in state court, said his attorney, Joseph Nixon of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons.

The commission explained that even if Sullivan performs some journalistic activities he does not qualify for the lobbyist registration statute's media exception because he does other work as well.

10th Circuit reverses dismissal of 'Dateline' defamation case

Bradleigh Chance | Libel | News | July 14, 2014
News
July 14, 2014

Last week the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that while NBCUniversal reporters did not violate anyone’s Fourth Amendment rights creating the 2008 Dateline segment titled “Tricks of the Trade,” a lower court will have to review the originally dismissed defamation claims made by an insurance broker featured in the piece.

Tyrone M. Clark and his company, Brokers’ Choice of America, initially sued NBC over video clips recorded with a hidden camera by Dateline crew members during an insurance brokers’ seminar in Colorado located on BCA property.

The reporters worked with Alabama law enforcement to gain access to the event since it was only open to licensed insurance agents, which Clark and BCA claimed to be a Fourth Amendment violation of the company’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Delaware Supreme Court dismisses appeal in Al Jazeera contract sealing case

Bradleigh Chance | Secret Courts | News | June 5, 2014
News
June 5, 2014

The Delaware Supreme Court dismissed an appeal this week of an order requiring Al Jazeera to file an almost completely unredacted version of its complaint against AT&T from a 2013 contract dispute.

Despite having both parties file briefs and deliver oral arguments, the high court threw out the appeal without explaining why.

First Circuit upholds right to record traffic stops

Kevin Delaney | Newsgathering | News | May 27, 2014
News
May 27, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) recognized last week a First Amendment right to video record a traffic stop that occurs in a public place. The court’s decision allows Carla Gericke to continue a civil rights lawsuit she brought against a New Hampshire police department.

In March of 2010, New Hampshire police charged Gericke with violating a state law that prohibits the unlawful interception of oral communications after Gericke appeared to use her video camera to capture a late-night traffic stop.

Even though prosecutors declined to pursue the charges, Gericke brought a suit claiming her First Amendment right to free expression was violated when the police charged her with illegal wiretapping in response to her decision to videotape the stop.

Intelligence agencies defend new review policy

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | May 12, 2014
News
May 12, 2014

Under increasing public scrutiny over a new pre-publication review policy, the Office of the Director National Intelligence released a statement claiming the media has "misconstrued" the policy, but open government advocates aren't so sure.

In April, DNI put in place a policy that, among other things, prohibits current and former ODNI personnel from citing in books and publications to information that has been leaked to the public.

"The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security," the policy states.

The policy goes beyond prohibiting officials from releasing classified information and extends the prohibition even to citing news reports about leaked information.