April 24th, 2014

If Photography Is Not a Crime, When Will Police Get the Message?

In February, just as the City of Baltimore was hammering out a legal settlement to end police interference with photographers, Baltimore police forcibly removed a Baltimore Sun photo editor from the scene of a shooting on a public street. That action underscored a seemingly intractable problem: getting the message to rank-and-file police officers that people have a constitutional right to photograph police carrying out their duties in public.

Judges have repeatedly thrown out criminal charges against photographers arrested while photographing police activities in public. Cities have had to pay to settle claims of civil rights violations stemming from some of the arrests. The City of Boston, for instance, agreed in 2012 to pay $170,000 to settle a videographer’s civil rights claims over his arrest for videotaping police arresting another person on the Boston Common. Baltimore ended up paying $250,000 as part of its recent settlement with Christopher Sharp, who alleged that police erased the videos on his iPhone after detaining him for using the iPhone to record the arrest and beating of another person.

And yet the incidents of police interference with photographers continue apace. No sooner is one case settled, when another incident or claim pops up.

“It certainly is like playing a game of whack-a-mole,” says attorney Mickey Osterreicher of the National Press Photographers Association. (more…)

March 23rd, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Beating a Photojournalist on a Lisbon Street

©REUTERS/Hugo Correia

In another horrific incident demonstrating police brutality toward photojournalists, even in Western democracies, a Portuguese policeman attacked AFP photographer Patricia Melo as she covered a general strike in Lisbon yesterday. Workers there were on strike to protest austerity measures imposed on Portugal as a condition of the $100 billion bailout provided to the country by other European nations. Reuters photographer Hugo Correia shot this image, which mirrors this other Reuters image from last October, showing an Athens policeman punching a photographer at an anti-austerity protest in that city.