Photojournalism Ethics in the Bin Laden Story

4 05 2011

Great piece on Nppa.org about ethical issues related to photography this week as the bin Laden story evolves. Big decisions about gruesome images and staged photo ops.

Read about it here:

http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2011/05/binladen.html

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A Law Favoring Photographers

21 04 2011

I have been following an exciting bill in the Connecticut legislature that for explicitly takes steps to protect photographers rights to make pictures.

In the face of recent efforts by other states to arrest photographers and charge them with violating wiretapping laws Connecticut’s S.B. No. 1206 is refreshing.

Contrary to some reports, the bill does not give photographers the right to take pictures in public- that right already exists. What the bill does is give photographers a right to sue police who interfere with their right to photograph. In many cases, you can only bring a lawsuit if the suit is authorized. A violation of a civil right is generally an appropriate grounds for suit, and in fact many photographers across the country have received settlements from police departments after being arrested unjustly. However, having an explicit cause of action will make it easier for photographers to bring suit.

In my opinion, it is not the possibility of a lawsuit that would make this bill favorable. Sure it is nice to get something for your trouble. But what matters here is the pressure that this would put on police departments to make sure that their officers respect the First Amendment and leave photographers alone.

The bill is short enough that I can post the entire version here:

Any peace officer, as defined in section 53a-3 of the general statutes, who interferes with a person taking a photographic or digital still or video image of such peace officer or another peace officer acting in the performance of such officer’s duties shall be liable to such person in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress, provided such person, while taking such image, did not obstruct or hinder any peace officer in the performance of such officer’s duties.

According to the Hartford Courant an amendment has been added that exempts officers “if the officer had a reasonable belief it would interfere with an investigation, violate the privacy of a victim or impact the public’s safety.” I’m hoping to get a copy of the amended text- it is not currently posted on the General Assembly website. An amendment like this could take away the teeth of the law or even make things worse if poorly written.





Blotter: The Right to Take Pictures

26 07 2010

Note: this is a cross-post with my NPPA Blog.

The right to take pictures has been in the news so much lately that I feel I need to present it in the form of a police blotter. Please send tips to me at advocacy@nppa.org.

  • The Washington Post has an interesting piece on ten incidents where photographers were stopped for taking pictures, detained, or told that photography was not allowed in a public place. It accompanies a story talking about the problem that NPPA has been fighting for years- police interfering with the right to make photographs in public.
  • In other “Right to take pictures” news, a congressman from New York, U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10) has submitted a resolution to the House of Representatives, “recognizing that the videotaping or photographing of police engaged in potentially abusive activity in a public place should not be prosecuted in State or Federal courts.” A “resolution” does not have the force of law that a statute does, but it will be nice if in fact Towns can get the House to support the concept that photography of police is protected constitutional activity.
  • File this under “save the best for last”: Earlier this month, a jury awarded camerawoman Patricia Ballaz $1.732 million in damages in her lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles after she was battered by members of the LAPD during an immigration rights rally in 2007. Her injuries were so severe that she was unable to return to her job.




  • The photo editors of social networking

    19 07 2010

    There is an interesting story in today’s New York Times about a growing profession of screeners whose job it is to look at social networking images and flag them for inappropriate content- pornography, violence and other disturbing images. Some of the work is outsourced, but some is done in-house, depending on the company needing the review.

    Like journalists, many of these individuals suffer psychological consequences from constantly seeing disturbing images. Oddly the article doesn’t mention anything about how they handle referring illegal activity to law enforcement. But it is fascinating to realize that in a world where content is provided by the masses, there is still a level of gate-keeping.





    Elegant Argument for Cameras in the Supreme Court

    2 07 2010

    This week, the broadcast of the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings provided a stark contrast to the dramatic events actually inside the Court on Monday. What came of it is one of the most elegant arguments for cameras in the Supreme Court that I have ever read.

    Check out the article here.





    Updates

    6 06 2010

    A couple of nuggets:

    This blog piece highlights the most famous newspaper in Hollywood, used for years in Hollywood as a prop.
    http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/06/04/lol-the-reoccurring-prop-newspaper/

    If you are an ethics fan, like many journalists are, this video, about “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.” It’s an extraordinary piece of journalism, as well as a fascinating look at the legal system.

    http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/06/04/nyregion/1247467961918/the-innocent-prisoner-s-dilemma.html





    How to be a safe and lawful Bluebonnet-er

    28 03 2010


    Shooting bluebonnets is one of the classic spring pastimes for photographers in Texas. For those of us who don’t shoot flowers for a living (and who does, really) it is a great way to rediscover the joy of just taking pictures for an afternoon.

    But as with all things, it is important to keep it safe. I was happy to find this article (thanks to Helen Montoya Henrichs) that clarifies a few things- namely, that it is not illegal to pick the bluebonnets (but it is totally uncool to drive your car over them). Oh, yeah, and, no trespassing.

    http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/public_information/pr032602.htm