Great to see a newspaper fighting for its rights, especially when so many news organizations are just fighting for their survival. John Tully, a photographer for the Midland Daily News in Midland, Michigan, USA, was standing on a public roadway while covering a breaking fire at a Dow Corning (wiki) plant when he was approached first by Dow Corning security personnel and then by Midland Police officers at the end of October, 2009. Tully refused to comply with orders to show his pictures to the security guards, who cited “homeland security” issues in their request. Midland Police informed Tully that his camera gear could be confiscated for refusing to comply. The Midland Daily News has a longer description of what happened and why the paper decided to fight the issue in a Nov. 1, 2009 editorial, Our view: Security vs. Freedom of the Press.
In the initial editorial, the paper called on U.S. Representative Dave Camp, R-Midland, to look into the issue and clarify “homeland security” issues as they apply to Dow Corning and the media’s ability to cover breaking news. Camp did just that, the Midland Daily News writes, and told the paper
“Like many other individuals that commented on this story, I too was concerned with the manner in which this situation was handled. In response, I contacted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to inquire about their policies for confiscating property, specifically cameras, for evidence. I was informed that DHS does not explicitly give companies or state and local police departments the authority to confiscate property.”
-US Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, quoted in the Midland Daily News
Count this as a win in the press freedom column in an era where photographers are frequently harassed while taking pictures of publicly-visible buildings, landmarks, and news. Be sure to check out the work of John Tully, the photographer in question, and his blog, while you’re at it.