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.

Western Watersheds Project v. Michael

June 6, 2018

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming supporting a group of plaintiffs challenging a pair of state statutes that heighten criminal and civil penalties on an individual who crosses private land without permission to access adjacent or proximate land where he collects resource data, with collection of resource data defined as (1) “to take a sample of material” or “acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form”; and (2) “recording . . . a legal description or geographical coordinates of the location of the collection.”  Wyo. Stat.

Overbey v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore

May 29, 2018
The Reporters Committee and a media coalition filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting The Baltimore Brew, an online media outlet.  The news organization is challenging a practice of the Baltimore Police Department of requiring “non-disparagement” clauses in all settlements involving claims of police misconduct.  The district court concluded that the Baltimore Brew did not have standing to challenge that practice.  The Reporters Committee’s amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit argues that the Baltimore Brew, under longstanding constitutional principles, does have standing to challenge the City’s practice of imposing what are effectively gag orders on victims of police misconduct who would otherwise publicly share their stories, and highlights the strong public policy interest in favor of public access to settlement agreements entered into by public entities.

Breazeale et al. v. Victim Services, Inc. et al.

February 20, 2018

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of neither party in Breazeale et al. v. Victim Services, Inc., et al,  which is before the 9th Circuit on the appellants' petition for rehearing. The panel decision in Breazeale held that the denial of a special motion to strike under the California Anti-SLAPP Statute was not immediately appealeable because the motion was denied on the basis of the "public interest exception" to the Anti-SLAPP Statute. The amicus brief urges the Court to clarify that its holding does not apply when a special motion to strike under the Anti-SLAPP Statute is denied on grounds other than the public interest exception.  The amicus brief was drafted by attorneys at Jassy Vick Carolan LLP.

Alasaad, et al. v. Nielsen, et al.

February 2, 2018

The Reporters Committee and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed an amicus brief in support of 11 plaintiffs, several of whom are journalists, who are challenging government searches of smartphones and other electronic devices at the U.S. border without a warrant.  The amicus briefs argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person's speech and associations, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers' First Amendment rights.  The amicus brief highlights the particular concerns of journalists, whose electronic devices contain sensitive information about their newsgathering activities that, if revealed to the government, could chill their relationships with sources and ability to report freely.

Addison v. City of Baker City

January 19, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations submitted an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of a former journalist who alleges a city and its police chief retaliated against him after he wrote a column critical of the police department. On appeal, the police chief asserted that the district court was wrong to deny him qualified immunity. The amicus brief argues that First Amendment retaliation claims are critical to journalists, who are at risk of retaliation by government officials because their reporting may be critical of government. The brief also argues that the district court correctly determined that the police chief is not entitled to qualified immunity because a campaign of harassment in retaliation for speech violates the Constitution, and the right to be free from such retaliatory harassment is clearly established.

Attorneys for Aaron Cantú File Motion to Dismiss Charges in Inauguration Day Arrest

Jose Ochoa | Newsgathering | News | January 19, 2018
January 19, 2018
Lawyers for journalist Aaron Cantú filed a motion Friday to dismiss charges stemming from his arrest while covering the Inauguration Day protests on Jan. 20, 2017.
Cantú, who now works for the Santa Fe Reporter, was covering the protests in Washington, D.C., as a freelance journalist. He was one of several protesters, journalists and others who were penned in by police for hours before many of them were arrested.
The motion argued that the indictment violates Cantú’s First Amendment rights as a journalist and that the District of Columbia’s riot laws are unconstitutionally vague as applied in this case.

United States v. Wood

December 21, 2017

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to express its concern regarding statements made during the closing arguments in the prosecution of Alexei Wood.  Wood live-streamed the January 20, 2017 Inauguration Day protest in Washington, DC, and was arrested and charged with various crimes stemming from his presence at the protest.  He was acquitted on December 21, 2017.  During closing arguments, the Assistant United States Attorney argued that Wood could not be an "up-and-coming journalist" because of Wood's familiarity with certain terms like "black bloc" and "kettle" and commented on Wood's "fake press badge."  The Reporters Committee's letter emphasized that newsgatherers must be familiar with the subject matter they cover, including its terminology, and that reporters are not required to have a press pass to cover a protest on public streets.

State v. Tisdale

December 18, 2017

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the presiding judge in State v. Tisdale, regarding the sentencing of a Georgia journalist, Nydia Tisdale, who was convicted on a misdemeanor obstruction charge related to her arrest while filming a political rally in 2014. The letter, submitted for the sentencing hearing, argued that Tisdale should be given leniency because she was engaged in newsgathering at the time of the arrest and because she performs a valuable service to the public.

Carpenter v. United States

August 14, 2017

This case asks the U.S. Supreme Court to answer whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cellphone records revealing the location and movements of a cellphone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment. RCFP and 19 media organizations joined as amici in support of petitioner, arguing that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to get cellphone location information. The brief explained the historic connection between the First and Fourth Amendments, and argued that long-term tracking of cellphone location information could reveal First Amendment-protected activities and threaten the confidentiality of the newsgathering process. 

Reporters Committee plays key role in transparency, right-to-record cases

Demi Vitkute | Newsgathering | News | July 21, 2017
July 21, 2017
Three significant court victories this month helped advance the cause of access to public records and increased transparency. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed amicus briefs in all three cases, which involved the right to record police officers in public spaces, public access to dashboard videos of fatal encounters with police, and a ruling overturning Utah’s “ag-gag” law. The Reporters Committee argued in all three cases that greater access and openness is necessary for the public to stay informed and hold the government accountable to its citizens.