For Immediate Release:
Hagit Limor, SPJ President, (513) 852-4012,
Andrew M. Scott, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists strongly supports the American Civil Liberties Union’s efforts to contest an Illinois law limiting citizens’ and journalists’ right to gather information in the public domain.
The ACLU of Illinois is challenging the constitutionality of a federal court ruling that claims the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to publically record police officers engaged in their duties. An amicus brief, which SPJ joined, was authored and filed April 22 by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, a citizen or journalist using a cell phone or video camera to record police conduct, even if on a public street, could be subject to criminal prosecution. The case, ACLU v. Alvarez, is on appeal to the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.
The Reporters Committee brief argues that the Illinois statute is unconstitutional because there is a well-established First Amendment right to gather information in the public domain. The brief cites numerous examples within the past few years where the law would cause potentially harmful implications on newsgathering.
In one of its roles as a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases. Most recently, SPJ joined a brief seeking to support of a case challenging the constitutionality of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.