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Photographer jailed overnight over basketball shots

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    News Media Update         TEXAS         Newsgathering         Feb. 28, 2005    

Photographer jailed overnight over basketball shots

  • A newspaper photographer who may have refused to move while photographing a high school basketball game was arrested and spent a night in jail.

Feb. 28, 2005 — A College Station, Texas, police officer arrested photographer Richard Nira Feb. 18 for allegedly refusing to move during a high school girls basketball game.

Nira, a photographer for The Huntsville Item in Huntsville, Texas, spent the night in jail and faces charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

Reports conflict regarding what provoked Nira’s arrest.

“Nira was unjustly singled out and treated unfairly by both the game official and police officer,” Bill Goffney, a coach of the New Waverly High School girls basketball team, said in the Feb. 23 edition of the Item. “[The arrest] definitely looked forceful to me.”

Sue Betts, head coach at A&M Consolidated High School, ordered the arrest. “I very nicely asked him to move, just to one side or the other and he flat out refused,” said Betts in the same Item article.

Nira was arrested. Nira, who has worked at the Item for nearly 20 years, was described by publisher David Lyons in an interview as “well known and liked” by the community, “including police and elected officials.”

Nira was told by authorities that he would receive a letter notifying him about his pending case, which will be held in Huntsville’s neighboring Brazos County. As of Friday, no letter had arrived, and Brazos County District Attorney has made no plans to drop the charges.

“Any time a member of the media is arrested and jailed for trying to do their job, there is cause for concern,” said Item Managing Editor Brian Lacy. “[P]eople might believe this issue isn’t important because it took place at a girls high school basketball game, but any blatant violation of the freedom of the press cannot be tolerated.”

Lacy said in the Feb. 20 Item that the paper ” will do everything it can to fight these charges and clear Richard’s name.”


© 2005 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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