Photojournalists’ rights when dealing with police

A WBTV photojurnalist in Charlotte, NC says he was shooting an accident scene this week when a police officer ordered him to stop, tried to grab his camera and it was damaged when it fell to the ground. He was handcuffed and put in a cruiser where he was held for about an hour without charges.

Photojournalist Travis Washington says when he asked why they wanted him to stop shooting, one officer said, “Because you’re not showing proper respect to people in the accident.”  The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are now doing an internal investigation.

It’s not uncommon for police officers to try to limit a photojournalist’s access to a scene, so it’s critically important that journalists shooting video  know their rights.

NPPA has created a good resource on the topic – a pdf document which outlines what photojournalists can and cannot do.  A couple points to remember:

  • The Constitution protects the media’s right to freely gather news, which includes the right to make photographs in a public forum;
  • When journalists are denied access, they should avoid confrtonation and arrest and instead gather as much information as possible so that they can later seek relief through proper channels.

As a multimedia journalist, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these issues and have a good understanding of your rights and responsibilities.


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