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Photographer ticketed for taking pictures in New York subway

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  1. Newsgathering

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Photographer ticketed for taking pictures in New York subway

  • A journalist for Amnesty International, was told that she was violating transit regulations.

April 2, 2003 — When Terry Allen, editor of Amnesty Now, the Amnesty International magazine, took several photos of a soldier in camouflage near a New York subway ticket book on March 19, she got more than pictures. A New York police officer gave her a ticket for shooting the photos.

According to Allen, Officer Vincent Rowe approached her and told her it was “illegal to take photos in the New York subway system.” Even after Allen identified herself as a journalist and asked what law prohibited her from taking photos in the subway, the officer insisted she was violating the law.

Rowe then produced a New York City Transit pamphlet, stating it was against Metropolitan Transit Authority rules, Allen explained.

Allen questioned the regulation in the pamphlet and asked Rowe to explain how the rule applied to taking photographs or newsgathering. Allen said the officer began to issue her a summons and asked for her identification and address. When she said she wouldn’t give her home phone number, the officer told her, “I am writing that you are refusing to give me requested information,” according to Allen. When Allen asked again if she was required by law to give her phone number, Rowe took out his hand cuffs from his belt and threatened to arrest her, Allen explained.

Allen finally decided to give the officer her phone number and received a summons that listed her offense as: “The respondant [sic] was taking pictures near booth area and surrounding area in NYC subway.”

An MTA public information officer stated that cameras are allowed in the subway system if the photographer is not impending the flow of traffic. However, if a person wants to use a tripod or do a photo shoot then that has to be approved by the MTA.

“The ironic thing is I just came back from Iraq where people were telling me what I could and couldn’t take pictures of. Now I’m back in the U.S. and am having the same kind of official intimidation,” Allen said.

Allen received at $25 citation for taking photos in the subway. A court appearance date has been set for April 18, at which Allen said she will plead not guilty.

Police officials did not return calls for comment.

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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