Tag Archive: Press freedom
We’ve written before about the so-called “Ag-Gag” bills that make illegal unauthorized video and photography of agricultural operations in various states. Today, the New York Times has an update on the increasing number of these types of laws throughout the United States: Videos show cruelty on farm, and taping becomes the crime. The NYT’s reporting connects bills across the country to a business advocacy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. The organization creates model legislation for state legislatures to adopt such as The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, which would prohibit video and still photography of livestock farms and puts violators on a “terrorist registry.”
Though no laws including a terrorist registry provision have yet been passed, Iowa, Utah and Missouri have passed laws that make it illegal to document operations on farms and agricultural operations without authorization. Indiana and Tennessee will soon vote on similar laws, and California, Pennsylvania, and other states are debating similar measures. The Indiana law would require prospective employees to disclose ties to animal rights groups during the hiring process. Animal rights groups say that these laws make it impossible to document animal cruelty on farms and ranches. Opponents of bills have managed to stall or stop Ag-Gag bills in New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Wyoming.
“Slowly but surely the courts are recognizing that recording on-duty police is a protected First Amendment activity. But in the meantime, police around the country continue to intimidate and arrest citizens for doing just that. So if you’re an aspiring cop watcher you must be uniquely prepared to deal with hostile cops.” -Gizmodo, 7 Rules for Recording Police
We’ve covered restrictions on photographers before, especially regarding coverage of police. Gizmodo’s recent article, 7 Rules for Recording Police, is an excellent collection of warnings, advice, and tactics, for photographers dealing with police confrontations. The tips all fall under the following headings:
- Know the Law (Wherever You Are)
- Don’t Secretly Record Police
- Respond to “Shit Cops Say”
- Don’t Share Your Video with Police
- Prepare to be Arrested
- Master Your Technology
- Don’t Point Your Camera Like a Gun
But more than these headings, the article offers practical advice about what do in particular situations. Under “Respond to ‘Shit Cops Say’,” they advise answering a police’s confrontational “What are you doing?” in a peaceful and information manner. Don’t escalate the matter by responding “I’m recording you to make sure you’re doing your job right” or ignoring the question. Instead, say something like “Officer, I’m not interfering. I’m asserting my First Amendment rights. You’re being documented and recorded offsite.” Of course, all of this is well and good when you’re reading the article at your computer; in the heat of the moment, you can expect things to get ugly and for your rights to be violated. The guide covers that, too. It offers tips for using a smartphone to simultaneously archive images and video online or what to do when you get detained.
Well worth a read!
Photographers watch out! You could be arrested for recording police activity at Chicago NATO events (UPDATED)May 2, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer 4 Comments »
UPDATE (7 May 2012): Thanks to Kyle Hillman for writing in with news that the city of Chicago has announced that they will not enforce these eavesdropping laws during demonstrations at NATO events this month. In March of this year, too, a judge ruled that the law barring recording police activity was unconstitutional. Hopefully this law is not long for the world…
Original post: If you’re planning to cover the NATO events in Chicago in a couple of weeks, you need to be aware of Illinois laws regarding police activity (the main G8 meeting was moved to Camp David, but the NATO Summit will continue as planned). We’ve covered this issue before, but it bears repeating. Under Illinois eavesdropping laws, a number of people have been arrested and prosecuted for recording audio (some in the course of recording video) of police activity. While Massachusetts does not prosecute people for openly recording police activity, Illinois has gone after individuals for both secret and opening recording of police duties. A proposed law in Illinois, HB3944, “exempts from an eavesdropping violation the recording of a peace officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear.” There’s a strong argument to be made that even secret recording of police activity is vital to the public interest in fighting police abuse and corruption; it’s a frightening prospect when police work to undermine the public’s protection against their power. But, in the meantime, it remains illegal in Illinois to record audio of police in the state. If you’re planning to capture video or audio at the upcoming Chicago events, be very careful.
While we’re at it (and thinking of a photographer friends’ experiences in Seattle covering Occupy protests yesterday), get acquainted with your rights as a photographer and journalist. Time Lightbox recently published a handy list of links, many of which will be familiar to long-time readers of this blog:
- The National Press Photographers Association’s Advocacy homepage
- The ACLU’s Know Your Rights Photographers page (they helped make the ridiculous and informative video above)
- Attorney Bert P. Krages’ Photographers’ Rights Pamphlet
- Carlos Miller’s Photography Is Not a Crime blog (which just celebrated its 5-year anniversary; I’d wish another 5 years of success to Miller’s blog if it didn’t mean 5 more years of abuse of photographers…)
Stay safe out there. None of these resources will protect you when the police or anyone else is hitting you or destroying your gear.
We wrote previously about Florida and Iowa lawmakers trying to make it illegal to record or photograph agricultural operations without the farm owner’s consent. Now, the Iowa bill has been signed into law, making it illegal to access farms without the owner’s consent and further making it illegal lie on farm job applications in order to gain access to farms. While the law no longer has language specifically addressing photography or video recording, both opponents and supporters of the law say that its intent is to prevent videos of farm operations from being made. Under the law, fraudulently entering a farm would be punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $1,500 fine. Penalties increase for subsequent offenses. Activists have vowed to continue making videos of alleged animal cruelty, while supporters of the law say it strikes a balance in protecting farmers without preventing workers from reporting animal abuse through preexisting channels.
More states continue to press for similar laws. The Utah State House of Representatives recently passed Utah HB 187, which makes it a crime to record images or sounds of farm activity without the farm owner’s consent. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and New York, are also considering such legislation.
As before, if you live in any of these states, contact your legislators.
This first came to my attention during the holidays, and I’d hoped to have heard good news since then. Unfortunately, Kontinent photographer Johan Persson and writer Martin Schibbye remain in jail after being found guilty of supporting terrorism in Ethiopia in late December 2011. The two Swedish journalists had been investigating recent oil discoveries in the region for Filter magazine, their travel in the area having been arranged by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group, which Ethiopia considers a terrorist organization. Ethiopian troops captured the pair in July as they traveled with the ONLF.
The Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a statement on the Swedish government’s website that Sweden has made high-level contact with Ethiopia in the matter. Reinfeldt backs the notion that Persson and Schibbye were working as journalists and says the pair should be freed immediately. Meanwhile, the journalists remain in jail in Ethiopia and have decided not to appeal the verdict, opting instead to seek a pardon on the advice of experts in such matters.
Martinandjohan.org publishes updates on the case and provides details for ways to support the pair while they remain in prison.
We hope for speedy and safe freedom for both.
We’ve covered photographers being treated as criminals previously (and look at Photography is Not a Crime, or Thomas Hawk’s collection of related posts), and now some photographers in London are pushing back against illegal limitations on photographers. In the video above–skip to 1:15 for the actual video–six photographers took to the streets of London to take pictures on public space. All six were approached by guards asking them to stop taking pictures for “security reasons” or because of concerns over terrorism. Three of the incidents elevated to police involvement, but happily, the police stated that the photographers were all allowed to continue taking pictures. In one case, the photographer thanks the police officer for not asking to see or delete the photos, and the officer responds that not only was he not interested in doing so, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing. The video was apparently produced as part of the London Street Photography Festival 2011.
In the US, there’ve been some recent run-ins between Transportation Security Administration officials in airports and photographers wanting to take pictures or video of security screening areas. Here’s one video that a videographer rescued from his camera after police forced him to delete his video, and here’s another couple of videos that brought attention on the TSA blog about whether security screening areas can be photographed. The TSA blog outlines the current regulations regarding photography at TSA checkpoints, thus: “We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.”
The NPPA has also recently pushed the issue with the TSA and gotten an official response from Margot Bester, Principle Deputy of the TSA’s Office of Chief Counsel, dated 22 June 2011 (pdf copy of letter). Here’s the relevant passage from that letter: “…TSA’ s goal is to protect passenger’s rights, including the right to record at passenger screening checkpoints, while ensuring that passenger screening operations can take place in an effective and efficient manner.”
The NPPA also points to the Department of Homeland Security’s official bulletin on rules and laws regarding photographing federal facilities in the US, which includes the statement that “officers should not seize the camera or its contents and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera, as this constitutes a seizure or detention.”
Also, for photographers in the US, be sure to know your rights. There’s a handy pdf at that link that you can print out and keep in your wallet or camera bag.
“After stopping the car I noticed that he was shabbily dressed, needed a shave and a haircut, also a bath. Subject talked with a foreign accent. I talked to the subject a few minutes and looked into the car where I noticed it was heavily loaded with suitcases, trunks and a number of cameras.” -from the police report of the arrest of Robert Frank in Arkansas on Nov. 7, 1955
And all of this is nothing new. Here’s a story in the Telegraph that starts out with an account of Robert Frank getting hassled by police in Arkansas while photographing The Americans, and here is the arrest report.
At this week’s World Press Photo awards ceremony, winner Jodi Bieber called for the safe return of South African photographer Anton Hammerl, who was taken by pro-Gaddafi forces on April 5, 2011. According to CPJ, the South African government was told on April 22 that Hammerl was healthy and would be able to speak to his family soon. Since then, nothing has been heard about his whereabouts, health, or the conditions of his detainment. Other journalists detained at the same time, Clare Morgana Gillis, James Wright Foley and Manu Brabo, have been able to contact their families, but Hammerl’s family has heard nothing. His family has renewed efforts to contact him. Friends of the photographer have set up a facebook page to spread word about his situation.
Hammerl’s work can be seen at his website.
“Sakamaki was returned to the group and told he was going to be arrested — “They said, ‘You know why.’”
“I said, ‘For being a journalist and taking pictures?’ They said, ‘Yes.’”
After four or five hours at the temporary police station, around midnight, they were all put onto a military bus, hands bound behind their backs with plastic handcuffs, and face down on the seats. For about 15 minutes the bus sat parked, while an angry crowed gathered around it. Sakamaki said people were shouting, “Kill them!” — and, able to see out his window a bit, he saw some once again making the ominous throat-slitting sign. The crowd became frenzied.” -East Village photog survived Egypt beating, interrogations, The Villager, 24 March 2011
Q. Sakamaki (whose work you need to see; previously featured on dvafoto) was detained while covering the recent turmoil in Cairo, Egypt. In an interview with The Villager, Sakamaki recounts savage beatings by pro-Mubarak mobs, death threats, and detention at a military jail.
(via Andri Tambunan on Facebook)
Another bit of good news today, as word arrives that Dave Clark, Roberto Schmidt, and Joe Raedle, have been safely released in Libya. The 3 were reported missing on Saturday
A Committee to Protect Journalists report reminds us, however, that they were 3 of 13 reporters currently missing. Let’s hope for more good news in the coming days.
The NPPA reports that there have been some changes to Florida farm bill SB 1246 (previously) that would make illegal photography or recordings of farm operations without the written permission of farm owners. The Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture approved the bill with two significant amendments: the crime has been changed from felony to misdemeanor, and the proposed bill no longer makes it a crime to photograph farm operations from public places, limiting the scope of the bill only to recordings made while trespassing. These are important and positive changes in the legislation, but the prospect of increasing limits on photography remains troubling.
Incidentally, our previous coverage of the bill was our most tweeted and shared post in the short history of dvafoto, racking up more than a thousand social media links, thanks in no small part to a tweet by Michael Pollan. I’m glad to see the issue get exposure outside of photography circles.