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SPJ objects to treatment of Milwaukee photojournalist


For Immediate Release

Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Director, (317) 640-9304,

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is objecting to the treatment of a Milwaukee photojournalist arrested for filming a news story behind police lines.

In a letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, SPJ objects to the arrest of Clinton Fillinger, a photojournalist for WITI Fox6Now. Fillinger was filming on a public street and not obstructing an ongoing investigation.

The letter, sent Sept. 23, is included below.

[Note: The letter is signed by SPJ Region 6 Director Amanda Theisen and then-SPJ President Hagit Limor, who is now Immediate-Past President. SPJ’s 2011-12 president, installed Sept. 27, is John Ensslin. Reach him at jensslin@spj.org.]

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.

Chief Edward A. Flynn
Milwaukee Police Department
951 North Hanes Lovell Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Dear Chief Flynn,

We at the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, are outraged at the treatment and arrest of Clinton Fillinger, a veteran photojournalist working for Milwaukee TV station WITI Fox6Now, by two of your police sergeants on September 19.

According to press reports, Mr. Fillinger was attempting to film a news story from behind police lines on a public street. One of your sergeants directed Mr. Fillinger to move away from the scene, but did not direct any other members of the public to do the same. When Mr. Fillinger attempted to assert his constitutional right to be there and film the scene, your sergeants knocked Fillinger to the ground, handcuffed him, and arrested him. He was later cited for resisting and obstructing police.

After reviewing the reports and video of the incident shot by Mr. Fillinger, we firmly believe your sergeants clearly violated his First Amendment rights. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the First Amendment allows photojournalists in a public space the right to photograph anything that is in plain view, including police and firefighters. This form of photojournalism is viewed as a necessary and important form of public oversight of government officials. Fillinger was well within his rights to be on that street, behind police lines, to do his job. He was clearly not interfering with the work of those officers, so the treatment your sergeants lauded upon Mr Fillinger baffles us.

We respectfully ask you to drop all charges against Mr. Fillinger, open an investigation into this incident, and discipline the officers involved, if necessary.

SPJ also encourages you to educate your officers on the First Amendment rights of media professionals so that similar situations can be avoided in the future. Our organization would be glad to work with your officers to provide this training.


Amanda Theisen
Region 6 Director, Society of Professional Journalists

Hagit Limor,
President, Society of Professional Journalists

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