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First Amendment

Federal Judge Refuses to Block WWL From Airing Surveillance Video

A federal judge has refused to block New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL from airing surveillance camera footage of a supermarket altercation between store employees and an alleged shoplifter who died a month after the struggle.

WWL obtained the video from the St. Bernard Parish Sherriff’s Office for a report on the death of the alleged shoplifter, Norbert Gallego. The video shows Gallego, who was mentally disabled, “being tackled, then held down by two store employees for several minutes,” according to WWL. He was hospitalized for his injuries and remained in a coma for a month before he died.

The supermarket chain, Breaux Mart, asked for an injunction to stop the station from airing the footage Tuesday, according to the Associated Press:

Breaux Mart lawyers said one of the chain’s owners saw a promotion for WWL’s news report and recognized the surveillance footage. “The advertisement ended with a statement to the effect of ‘Why weren’t these men charged?’ leaving the viewer to infer that the Breaux Mart employees had committed a crime,” they wrote.

WWL reported that nobody was charged in Gallego’s death after the parish coroner, Bryan Bertucci, concluded he died of natural causes. Bertucci told WWL that it “wasn’t an easy case.”

Watch WWL’s report, which aired last night with the surveillance camera footage, after the jump. Read more

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Washington State Supreme Court Hears KOMO Case on Police Dashcam Videos

A legal battle between KOMO and the Seattle Police Department over access to police dashcam videos has reached the Washington State Supreme Court. The Seattle ABC affiliate reported on the case Tuesday:

The arguments before the Supreme Court are the last step in a years-long effort by KOMO to use police videos as a means of checking officer behavior. KOMO first requested a database and copies of Seattle police dashcam videos in 2010 during a Problem Solvers investigation about excessive force and biased policing.

In spite of numerous requests, the department told KOMO that the video records — the way the station asked for them — didn’t exist. After more than a year, the city did provide KOMO with a database, but then refused to supply the dashcam videos, saying there was a three-year exemption under the law.

“This is about every single citizen in the state of Washington and their right to have access to the videos that the police have, and their right to hold police accountable,” [KOMO news director Holly] Gauntt said.

KOMO reports the Supreme Court bypassed the appeals court and took the case directly, which can be done when the court believes there is “substantial public importance.” A decision is expected in three to six months.

Watch KOMO’s report after the jump. Read more

New York Photojournalist Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Following Arrest

The NPPA and the New York Civil Liberties Union, along with New York law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of photojournalist Phil Datz, who was arrested last July as he was attempting to film the conclusion of a police chase on Long Island.

Datz was on a public street when he was arrested.

“Mr. Datz’s arrest was not an isolated event,” said Robert Balin, a partner with Davis Wright Tremaine and lead counsel on the case. “Suffolk County police officers have a pattern of unlawfully interfering with the recording of police activity conducted in plain view. As a journalist, Mr. Datz has a responsibility to cover police activity in public places.” Read more

Following Complaints from Local Stations, City of Sanford Rescinds Controversial Media Warning

The City of Sanford has rescinded its controversial warning that members of the media covering the Trayvon Martin case could be arrested, following pressure from local news outlets who argued that the threat was unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, the City of Sanford, which has enlisted the help of a private PR firm in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, issued a press release stating that law enforcement officials would “not hesitate” to arrest members of the media who approach city employees outside of working hours.

After receiving complaints from Orlando stations, including WESH and WFTV, the city issued a follow-up release on Thursday evening, rescinding its threat. Read more

City Warns Media Covering Trayvon Martin Case: ‘Law Enforcement Will Not Hesitate to Make an Arrest’

As reporters continue to crowd the sidewalks of Sanford, FL, covering the Trayvon Martin case, the city is warning members of the media that they could be arrested.

The City of Sanford issued a press release on Wednesday requesting that “members of the media refrain from approaching, phoning or emailing city employees when they are in their roles as private citizens.”

“It has come to light that there have been a few incidents where city staff were followed and approached at their home or in settings outside of working hours,” the press release states.  “Law enforcement officials will not hesitate to make an arrest for stalking.”

Chicago Mayor Institutes No Handcuffing Policy for Reporters, Following Incident with WGN’s Dan Ponce

Following an incident in which Chicago police handcuffed WGN reporter Dan Ponce, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that he doesn’t “believe in handcuffing reporters.”

“Whether I like what you write or whether I like what you report, you have an essential role in telling the truth,” Emanuel said to a group of reporters on Monday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  “I want to say this: You won’t be handcuffed. That I can assure you today.”

A little over a week ago, Ponce and WMAQ photographer Donte Williams were handcuffed outside of a hospital as they attempted to report on the murder of a six-year-old girl.  Police detained the pair while they were situated on a median in a street alongside the hospital. Read more

Local Reporter and Photographer Detained by Chicago PD: ‘Your First Amendment Rights Have Limitations’

Chicago police took WGN reporter Dan Ponce and WMAQ photographer Donte Williams into custody on Saturday, saying the two were “creating a scene” outside of Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Ponce and Williams, who were part of a media contingent covering the fatal shooting of a six-year-old girl, were handcuffed by an officer after they refused to move farther away from the hospital (video above). “You first amendment rights can be terminated if you create a scene,” the officer told them. “Your first amendment rights have limitations.” Read more

NYC Stations Among Media Coalition Protesting NYPD’s Treatment of Reporters

A coalition of media organizations — including WABC, WNBC and WCBS — sent a letter yesterday to the New York Police Department protesting recent media access issues and police handling of reporters.

In November, the New York Press Club sent a letter to city officials protesting treatment of journalists during the Occupy Wall Street raid. In response, police commissioner Ray Kelly told officers that they could be disciplined for disrupting media access, according to the Washington Post. But journalists in New York City say that there continues to be interference while they work.

“A number of press entities feel that more needs to be done if we are to resolve these issues in an amicable manner,” the media letter said, according to the Post. Read more

In New York, Debate Over Reporters’ Rights At Occupy Protests Continues

On the heels of last week’s media blackout in Zuccotti Park, the New York Observer has a round-up of the continuing debate about the rights of reporters covering the Occupy movement. The Observer points to an interview deputy commissioner of public information Paul Browne gave to NPR on Friday:

He went on to explain that no reporters were arrested at Zuccotti Park during the raid, where reporters cooperated and were held two blocks back. As for the arrests of reporters made later that day elsewhere in lower Manhattan, they might not have happened with more oversight.

“Had we had somebody there, DCPI would probably try to accommodate a reporter getting caught up in a situation with a group pushing through police lines,” he explained. He added that the five reporters had their arrests voided.

Mr. Browne made no defense for keeping media out of the Zuccotti raid altogether, explaining that a press pass does not mean the automatic right to cross police lines. Read more

Idaho Stations Fight for More Access to Execution

News stations in Idaho have joined with several other media outlets in the state to challenge the proposed schedule of an execution set for Friday.

Paul Ezra Rhoades is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Friday morning and authorities have barred members of the media from viewing the first 25 minutes of the procedure.

The execution is the first to occur in Idaho in over 15 years and prison officials plan to begin the procedure in private before allowing witnesses into the execution chamber. Read more

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