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Reporters Committee criticizes convention ban on aerial news coverage

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Photojournalists at next week's Democratic National Convention will not be able to cover any protests near the convention from the…

Photojournalists at next week’s Democratic National Convention will not be able to cover any protests near the convention from the air because of rules imposing an aircraft ban around Staples Center.

A federal law that states that no person may operate an aircraft over the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the president, vice president or other public figures is being used by the U.S. Secret Service to extend a “sterile zone” with a 1.5-mile radius around the Democratic National Convention site in Los Angeles. The Secret Service says its authority to impose such a zone is based on Presidential Decision Directive 62, a classified document.

The restriction prevents news helicopters from flying over potential protests near the Staples Center, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “The zone is overly restrictive — particularly given that air space restrictions surrounding the White House, the vice president’s residence and the U.S. Capitol are limited to a few blocks around each building,” she said.

A similar restriction was in place from August 2 to August 3 during the Republican convention in Philadelphia while the party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates were in attendance.

“We know from the Philadelphia experience that protestors will be in Los Angeles next week,” Dalglish said. “Journalists will be trying to cover that story, but their best efforts will be thwarted because of this draconian rule. We believe the Secret Service should relax the rule to balance the interests of safety for the president and the candidates with the public’s right to see what is happening at the convention.”

An additional five-mile-radius “no fly” zone was also established by the FAA around the Staples Center, but that limit allows for at least one pooled media helicopter.