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Journalism Groups Protest Prosecution of Photojournalist
Today the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to the Santa Cruz DA stating they are “deeply concerned by your office’s decision to prosecute Bradley Stuart Allen, a longtime San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay) contributor, as well as by assertions from your office that: (1) a reporter may be prosecuted for conspiracy simply by providing coverage of a newsworthy event and (2) Indybay is not a bona fide news organization.” Mr. Allen was charged with felony conspiracy along with vandalism and trespassing for his coverage of an “Occupy” demonstration late last year.
On March 12, 2012 the NPPA along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter brief to the court seeking that the charges against him be dismissed in the interest of justice. In the alternative the letter asked for the court to exercise leniency in addressing those offenses. The groups also asserted that because newsgathering is constitutionally protected, the court should carefully weigh the public interest in obtaining information against arguably lesser government interests.
After a hearing last week the judge dismissed the felony vandalism charge, finding that prosecutors did not meet their burden of presenting sufficient evidence but refused to dismiss the felony conspiracy and two misdemeanor trespassing charges against him.
The letter sent today by SPJ concluded by saying, “it is wholly inappropriate, and indeed unconstitutional, for a public prosecutor to single out representatives of a disfavored news organization for prosecution. That a photojournalist from The Santa Cruz Sentinel was able to enter the occupied building and report from it without also being subjected to charges brings this abuse into even sharper relief” and strongly urged the DA ”to reconsider whether to proceed with this aggressive and dangerous targeting of the independent press.”
Allen’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 29.
Mickey Osterreicher @ March 27, 2012