NPPA & REPORTERS COMMITTEE SEEK DISMISSAL OF CHARGES AGAINST PHOTOJOURNALIST COVERING OCCUPY PROTEST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DURHAM, NC – The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (Reporters Committee) filed a joint Letter Brief seeking the dismissal of charges against Bradley Stuart Allen in The People of the State of California v. Becky Ann Johnson et al, Case No. F22194. The brief asserts that Mr. Allen, who is a photojournalist and NPPA member, should not be criminally prosecuted for trespass, vandalism and conspiracy. He was charged after his photographic coverage of an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest in Santa Cruz, California last year.
Noting that the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom is meaningless if journalists do not possess a concomitant right to gather the news, the brief states that while the allegedly violated statutes may serve important government interests, they cannot be exempt from First Amendment protection. Application of these laws in the prosecution of a journalist engaged in the constitutionally protected act of newsgathering demands careful balancing of these competing interests.
“While journalists may sometimes violate the letter of the law in order to obtain information of public concern, we believe it is extremely important for the court to also consider when such action occurs in the spirit and exercise of First Amendment rights,” said Sean D. Elliot, NPPA president. “Review of visual reportage subject to criminal penalties without that balance unfairly burdens newsgathering at its most critical need of protection,” he added.
This is just the most recent case where journalists have been interfered with and arrested while covering OWS protests throughout the country. In almost every case, those charges – ranging from disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration to trespass – have been dismissed or the defendant journalists have been acquitted.
About the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
The NPPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism in its creation, editing and distribution. Since 1946, NPPA has vigorously promoted freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as that freedom relates to visual journalism.
Mickey Osterreicher @ March 12, 2012