NPPA, Press Groups, Call on Justice Department to Protect Right to Record
The National Press Photographers Association today joined with leading free speech and digital rights groups to call on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to focus attention on the alarming number of arrests of people documenting Occupy protests.
More than 70 such arrests have been documented since last September by one of the coalition’s groups, Free Press.
Today, on World Press Freedom Day,a letterdelivered to the Attorney General noted that American police have arrested dozens of journalists, activists, and bystanders attempting to document protests in public spaces. Even if some of these cases don’t fall directly under the Department of Justice’s jurisdiction, the letter calls on Holder’s office to continue its vigilance as protests spread and arrests increased in 2012.
Joining NPPA in the letter are the groups Free Press, Access, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the New America Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and witness.org.
In January, the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Baltimore Police urging the U.S. District Court of Maryland to uphold an individual’s “First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties” and to find that “officers violate citizens’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize and destroy such recordings without warrant or due process.”
“NPPA firmly believes that the right to film government officials or matters of public concern in public places is virtually self-evident and fundamental to First Amendment protections,” NPPA president Sean D. Elliot said.