In the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the unrest that continues, ONA offers the following information and tools for journalists covering this or similar situations.
Hashtag: The RCFP has set up #fmomediahotline (the “fmo” stands for Ferguson, Mo.) as a hashtag for those who want to publicize incidents of interference. RCFP will be monitoring this tag, and we encourage others to as well.
Hotline: Any journalist can call (800) 336-4243 if they’ve been arrested or need other legal assistance.
If you’re a journalist in need of specific legal help, here are some attorneys who can (not that news organizations will need to negotiate fees directly):
- Benjamin Lipman (firstname.lastname@example.org; 314-444-7886) of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh, L.C., is involved in these issues and has been in contact with police.
- Anthony Rothert (ARothert@aclu-mo.org) of the Missouri ACLU has been working with police, and has a signed agreement with the heads of the state, county and local police over allowing the press and public to not be stopped when photographing events.
On Aug. 15, ONA joined The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and a coalition of 47 national media organizations that sent a protest letter objecting to the treatment of reporters during the recent events. The letter was sent to the heads of the city and county police, as well as the state highway patrol.
“Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes,” the letter states. “The actions in Ferguson demonstrate a lack of training among local law enforcement in the protections required by the First Amendment as well as the absence of respect for the role of news-gatherers. We implore police leadership to rectify this failing to ensure that these incidents do not occur again.” The letter pointed out that the Department of Justice and several federal courts have all made clear that photographing police officers who are performing their duites is protected by the First Amendment. This right applies equally to the news media and the general public.