May 16th, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Photogs Cleared of Charges in New York, Seattle

A student photographer has been cleared in court of disorderly conduct charges stemming from his arrest in New York City at the scene of an Occupy march in January, the Associated Press reports. Separately, prosecutors in Seattle decided to drop charges against a photographer arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer there during May Day protest, The Seattle Times reports.

Video from the scene of the arrests helped clear the photographers in both cases.

In New York, police accused New York University photography student Alexander Arbuckle of blocking traffic at an Occupy protest march on January 1. He maintained that he was photographing from the sidewalk at the time of his arrest. At trial, the judge dismissed the charges after Arbuckle’s defense attorneys showed a video by another journalist showing police massing near people on the sidewalk, and then arresting them, according to AP.

In the Seattle incident, photographer Joshua Garland was accused of grabbing and twisting the arm of a police officer at a May Day protest in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Times reports that prosecutors decided they couldn’t prove the charges against Garland after his defense attorney showed a video of the incident. According to that same report, the attorney pieced the video together from “video segments posted on YouTube by witnesses and other footage shot by a local television station.”

March 30th, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Photog Agrees to Community Service for Trespassing on a Public Street

A freelance photographer arrested last fall while covering police action at the Occupy protest in Richmond, Virginia has reportedly agreed to complete 50 hours of community service in exchange for having prosecutors drop trespassing charges against him.

Photographer Ian Graham was arrested while covering the removal of protesters by police last October 31, according to a report by Style Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Richmond. Police had ordered media to stay in a designated area, but Graham left the area to take pictures “after finding his view obstructed,” Style Weekly reports.

He was charged with trespassing, and was facing up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine when he made the deal with prosecutors.

Related:
Police Intimidation Watch: Boston to Pay $170K for Wrongful Arrest of Videographer
Police Intimidation Watch: Beating a Photojournalist on a Lisbon Street
A Sign of Restive Times: Policeman Punches Photojournalist

January 26th, 2012

US Falls To #47 On Press Freedom Index, Thanks to Occupy Crackdowns

Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 47th on their 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index, down 27 places from the previous year, tied with Argentina and Romania.

“In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation,” Reporters Without Borders wrote in their report. The US “owed its fall” to arrests and harassment related to coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the non-profit reporters’ rights group said.

The drop saw the US ranked just above Latvia, and Trinidad and Tobago, which fell 20 places due to a scandal involving the government spying on journalists.

In a statement released along with the index today, Reporters Without Borders noted that “Many media [around the world] paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements…. Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011.”

In North African and Middle East, the Arab uprisings greatly affected the rankings of several nations. In Tunisia and Libya rose in the index as censorious regimes were deposed. Egypt, however, fell 39 places in the index due in part to “The hounding of foreign journalists for three days at the start of February, the interrogations, arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers by military courts, and the searches without warrants,” the report said.

Syria and Yemen were already lowly ranked, so their crackdowns on demonstrations and journalists only caused them to sink a bit lower. Iran fell in the rankings to 175. China, “which has more journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents in prison than any other country,” the report notes, also ranked near the bottom of the index at 174.

Eritrea was the worst nation in the ranking for a fifth straight year, and its Horn of Africa neighbors Somalia and Sudan also received low rankings as part of an East African region where journalists are regularly subjected to violence, censorship and lengthy prison sentences served in awful conditions.

The Press Freedom Index is calculated using a scoring system based on a questionnaire distributed to partner organizations, a network of 150 correspondents around the world, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

For the full report and more on the creation of the index, see the full Reporters Without Borders release.

Related: New York Times Photographer Blocked by NYPD
Photogs Arrested in Raid on Occupy Protest at Zuccotti Park