Newsgathering (Access to places)

Have you been stopped by police while covering a news story? Have you been kept out of a news scene because you've been denied credentials? Do you have other issues and concerns related to official interference with your right to gather news and information?

A reporter’s access to the scene of a newsworthy event usually depends on the type of property -- public, private, or "nonpublic" government property -- to which access is sought. Public property restrictions are generally limited to reasonable time, place and manner regulations, while private property owners have much more control over access.

Reporters don't have a greater right of access to prisoners than the general public. Police often allow journalists to obtain credentials to cover crime and disaster scenes. There are also often limits on access to public buildings and election polling places.

Private property access comes down to the issue of consent. Some states treat access to large shopping malls as more like public forums, even though they are privately owned.

Journalists should know what to do when they are denied access, and might consider remedies for denials in some cases.

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Closely related to the privacy tort of intrusion on seclusion is trespass. Whereas intrusion usually involves an electronic or mechanical invasion into the private affairs of another, trespass requires a physical invasion of someone's property. As with intrusion, the violation arises from the act of unauthorized entry, not from the publication of information obtained there.

The public has a limited right of access to the prison system, and the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the media have no right beyond that. These restrictions are justified by prison administration and security interests, as well as concerns about the effects of media attention on relationships among inmates.