The general counsel to the National Press Photographers Association has sent yet another letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly requesting a meeting to discuss "police-press relations" and "devise a better system of education and training for department members." The letter, drafted by Mickey Osterreicher and signed by representatives from the New York Times, The New York Daily News, The AP, and Reuters, among others, addresses both Times photographer Robert Stolarik's arrest and the harassment and arrest of journalists during Occupy Wall Street protests last month, but it's unclear whether it will lead to anything more than improving Kelly's trash can basketball skills.
What is also of grave concern is the fact that although DCPI issued press credentials may be required for admission to certain press events; it is a blatant violation of the First Amendment for officers to prevent non-credentialed members of the media from gathering and disseminating news on astreet where the public has not been denied access. We strongly object to any journalists being harassed, intimidated and arrested when clearly displaying press identification solely because they were not considered to be “properly credentialed” by the police.
As the Supreme Court noted in Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972) “Liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods.” In Von Bulow v. Von Bulow, 811 F.2d 136 (2d Cir. 1987), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, similarly stated that “an individual successfully may assert the [New York] journalist’s privilege if he is involved in activities traditionally associated with the gathering and dissemination of news, even though he may not ordinarily be a member of the institutionalized press.” In that same vein, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit noted that such constitutional protections “cannot turn on professional credentials or status.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011).
In the letter, Osterreicher recognizes that not all NYPD employees were hostile to the press during the Occupy demonstrations in a nod to Deputy Commissioner, Public Information Paul Browne, who was seen intervening on a photographer's behalf when an officer attempted to prevent them from taking photos. Yet other high-ranking NYPD officers were seen obstructing members of the press from doing their jobs. "We urge you meet with us once again so that we may help devise a better system of education and training for department members starting from the top down," Osterreicher writes.
You can read the entire letter below.