FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The president of the Society of Professional Journalists wrote to the New York City police commissioner to express his concern over treatment of journalists at Occupy Wall Street protests this month.
Sonny Albarado, installed as 2012-13 SPJ president on Sept. 22, wrote Raymond Kelly a year after SPJ sent Kelly a similar letter when the protests began in 2011.
I was dismayed and again concerned this week to read reports of photojournalists being detained and hindered from doing their job while covering the demonstrations associated with the first anniversary of the Occupy movement, Albarado wrote.
Josh Stearns of Free Press has tracked the movement and lists more than 90 instances of journalist arrests at Occupy protests.
Albarado suggests Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, as a potential resource for the NYPD to improve their interaction with journalists at the Occupy protests. Osterreicher has trained police staffs in multiple cities to handle press covering large demonstrations.
When installed as SPJs president on Sept. 22, Albarado said it was a priority for SPJ to maintain vigilance while protecting the free flow of information and prevent journalists from being arrested while doing their jobs. The full text of Albarados letter appears below.
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 on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.
Raymond Kelly Police Commissioner New York City Police Department 1 Police Plaza New York, NY 10007
24 September 2012
Dear Commissioner Kelly,
My name is Sonny Albarado. I am president of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation's largest and oldest journalism organization with nearly 8,000 members.
Last year our organization wrote to you to express our concern about the arrests and detention of journalists who were covering the dispersal of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators from Zucotti Park.
I was heartened by your response to that situation. I appreciate that you took time to meet with a group of leaders from several journalism organizations, including the Deadline Club, our New York City chapter.
We also were reassured when you issued a directive to your officers that was read at roll call instructing them to abide by the First Amendment rights of reporters and photographers who are trying to do their job covering an often chaotic situation.
However, I was dismayed and again concerned last week to read reports of photojournalists being detained and hindered from doing their job while covering the demonstrations associated with the first anniversary of the Occupy movement.
While the number of journalists arrested was smaller this time, it is frustrating to us to see this type of situation persist in spite of your written directive.
It seems to us here at SPJ that perhaps some additional training of command staff is called for in this instance.
Therefore, I would like to suggest that you consider the offer of training extended to your department by Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.
We have worked closely with Mickey over the last year as journalists were swept up by police while covering demonstrations in about a dozen cities across the U.S.
I also note that Mickey provided that same training earlier this year in Charlotte, Tampa and Chicago. As a result, conflicts between police officers doing their job and journalists covering a story were minimized during the two national political conventions and the G8 Summit.
I know this is a sometimes difficult dialog to have, but Mickey is an excellent person to foster this conversation, particularly because of his experience as a reserve deputy with the Sheriff's Department in Buffalo.
If SPJ can be of any assistance in the matter, please do not hesitate to ask. We stand ready to help.
Yours truly, Sonny Albarado President Society of Professional Journalists