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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Iowa Law Would Criminalize Publishing Farm Exposes

18 03 2011

Author’s Note: This is a cross- post from my NPPA Advocacy blog.

Recently we told you about a bill banning photography of farms in Florida. We have learned that there is a similar bill, prohibiting photography (among other things) of farms and crops without the permission of the owner. The Iowa bill has been compared to the Florida bill, but a quick read of the bill shows that it is far worse. To Iowa’s credit, it appears that photography from the street wouldn’t be affected, however, mere possession and distribution of undercover photography of a farm would be a crime. This elevates editors and news organizations to the status of criminals if they publish, or even possess undercover footage of farms, crops or animal facilities.

Specifically the bill states that “distribution or possession” of photographs that were illegally obtained (through violations of earlier portions of the bill). Under the proposed law, “A person is guilty of animal facility interference if the person. . . [p]ossess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which” is  a “reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium” without the consent of the owner.

To give some perspective to the blatant unconstitutionality of this bill consider this – the only time that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that bans distribution and possession of any kind of photography it was a law against possessing and distributing child pornography. As powerful of a lobby farmers are, elevating exposes of farms to the level of child pornography is absurd and I can’t see how this would hold up. Just last year the Supreme Court ruled that a law banning possession and distribution of video of cruelty to animals was unconstitutional. See U.S. v. Stevens, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010). The intent of that law was to prevent animal cruelty but even it went too far (the NPPA signed an amicus brief advocating for the overturning of that bill).

The government can’t even prevent the possession and distribution of documents that put U.S. security interests at risk so it is hard to imagine how the public relations interests of farms would be considered more compelling than U.S. security interests.

Several years ago (2001), in a case called Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court ruled that when a news organization lawfully obtained a recording, they could not be held liable for the publication of the details of the recording, even though the recording itself was illegally obtained. The Iowa law would make a news organization liable for publishing a recording, even if the news organization had nothing to do with obtaining the recording.

The NPPA has contacted lawmakers in Iowa regarding the bill.

Journalists and Photographers in Iowa should be very concerned about this bill. While it would no doubt be struck down in court, it is much easier for all of us if it never makes it to the governor’s desk.

From HF589:

Sec. 9.1(a)(2) makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” which was taken without permission of the owner.

Sec. 14.1.b makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation which was” taken without permission of the owner.





Arrest in leak of the video of the killing of photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen

11 06 2010

-Note: this is a cross-post with my NPPA Advocacy Blog. Please visit that as well.-
Several months ago, Wikileaks released a horrifying video of the 2007 killing by the U.S. Military, of Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his and driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.

Earlier this month, the federal government arrested an army intelligence analyst, 22-year-old Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video. Adding to the drama are reports that Manning also leaked hundreds of thousands of other classified documents, and cables to Wikileaks, and now the Pentagon is searching for the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, fearing that the organization is preparing to release the information. Interestingly, Assange is scheduled to speak on a panel discussion at the Invetigative Reporters and Editors conference this afternoon, the epicenter of journalism that relies on confidential sourcing.

An article in today’s New York Times outlines how the government is taking a hard stand against leaks.

In the midst of a national crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, and corporate misinformation campaigns by BP which are being supported by the federal government’s cooperation in blocking access, all of this is important to photojournalists.

(UPDATE: Assange has canceled his appearance at the IRE conference, according to The Daily Beast)





It’s photo week at the Supreme Court of the United States

7 10 2009

071107-scotus-awc-031Photographers should be paying attention to the Supreme Court this week…

Tasini continued…

Oral arguments were heard today in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick. This case is connected to our old friend Tasini v. New York Times, which some say started the whole rights grabbing trends of the modern day newspaper contract. While this case won’t really have as much of an impact on photographers, it is interesting because of the connection. It involves the authority of the court over copyright cases and settlements when the rights holders haven’t registered their copyright. It also involves an enormous class of journalists. Here is a summary of the oral arguments (note to self: research why people keep hyphenating “freelancer”) and here is a transcript of the oral arguments.

If the court rules that a federal court cannot approve a settlement involving rights-holders who have not registered, it seems inevitable that this will affect the Google Books settlement.

The Dog-fight Video Case

In another case that is important to photographers, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday about whether or not a law that bans visual depictions of cruelty to animals is a violation of the First Amendment.

U.S. v. Stevens is the first case ever to be prosecuted under a federal law that bans any “depiction of animal cruelty” if such cruelty is illegal in the place where the depiction is created, sold or possessed.

It has been many years since the Court found that the government interest in preventing child pornography was so great that it overrode any First Amendment rights of the child pornographer, a rather appropriate finding. By making the expressive act illegal, the motive for the abuse is diminished. Child pornography involves abuse of a child and the photography itself is abusive. The law is clearly narrowly tailored and serves a compelling government interest.

This law is not so well orchestrated. For example, the defedant, Stevens, was not involved in any animal abuse, he merely edited together footage that he obtained from others.

While well intentioned (many attacks on the First Amendment are), I think this law is certain to be struck down. First of all, I don’t believe that our government truly has a compelling interest in preventing cruelty to animals. If it did, much of the way our nation produces meat would be illegal (yes, I am a vegetarian). Second, the law is in no way narrowly tailored. There are many possibilities of perfectly legal activity that could get a person caught up in this law. And there are loopholes that would make illegal a video or photograph of something that was legal where it occurred (say bullfighting in Spain). I once photographed a ritual sacrifice of a sea turtle in a Fijian village. It was gross. It was brutal and cruel. But it was important to document. Those pictures could get me in trouble with the feds under this law.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the list of hypotheticals the justices posed to the attorneys in this case. The article in the New York Times says it all.

The transcript, full of hypotheticals, is here.

An article about the NPPA signing an amicus brief urging the court to hold the law unconstitutional is here.

One of my favorite things to listen to is a Nina Totenberg report on Supreme Court arguments. Her review of this weeks oral arguments is available here.





Colbert on NPPA and Photography in Train Stations

3 02 2009

For years, I have been involved in fighting attempts to ban photography in public places like train stations. Yet photographers continue to be harassed and we continue to have to make a fuss.

Recently, a case caught the attention of the Colbert Report and the following video ran last night (Feb. 2). The absurdity of our point comes across clear as day. The shout out to NPPA (and the bloody lettering to go with it) made my day.

The good news is that NPPA has gotten Amtrak to agree to review and update its police guidelines in regards to photography. But that, of course is not as funny as what happened to set it all off.

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more about “Colbert Reports on Photography in Tra…“, posted with vodpod





Charges dropped against photographer

20 06 2008

In another “bully the photographer” case…

A good friend of mine, Tony Overman (a respected and experienced journalists who has testified before Congress on behalf of the profession), was arrested while covering a fire scene recently. Basically, he got into a verbal argument with a police officer. The officer got in his face, their noses touched. The officer accused Tony of assaulting him, pushed him to the ground, arrested him, and twisted his arm. Tony’s wrist was sprained. He was charged with assaulting a police officer- basically for talking back.

Fortunately, Tony knew exactly how to handle this, from years of advocating for other photographers. He has a media lawyer on his speed dial.

The evidence in this case spoke for itself. None of the other police officers or firefighters on the scene saw the alleged assault. The officer also had no reported injuries, despite his claim that Tony hit him in the nose with his forehead.

The charges were dropped yesterday.

I have been thinking about something lately. I have been wondering if there is any other profession where the professionals risk arrest for doing their job every day. I can’t think of one, other than journalist (and maybe drug dealer)

I am relieved that the charges against Tony were dropped, but in general, I am so sad about this reality…

• Story in The Olympian •• NPPA Story •