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Home > SPJ News > Banned Items at 2016 Political Conventions Hinder Journalists’ Jobs and Safety

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Banned Items at 2016 Political Conventions Hinder Journalists’ Jobs and Safety


7/17/2016



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 17, 2016

Contacts:
Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President, 804-873-1893, pfletcher.spj@gmail.com
Mickey H. Osterreicher, NPPA general counsel, 716-983-7800, lawyer@nppa.org
Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director, 770-823-1760, mikec@rtdna.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – On the eve of the 2016 political conventions the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) joined by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) write to express our concerns for the safety of citizens and journalists exercising their First Amendment rights as well as the ability to observe and report on matters of public concern during expected protests in Cleveland, Philadelphia and other cities around the country.

Particularly, we are disappointed that government officials in Cleveland have remained steadfast in their ban on gas masks in the event zone, while Philadelphia has no such prohibition. It is understandable that the list of prohibited items in both cities contain items that may be used as offensive weapons or may pose a threat to public safety; but we believe that those news organizations wishing to protect their employees and individuals desiring to protect themselves from exposure to airborne chemical agents while covering the news should be allowed to do so.

Additionally, the ban on backpacks and bags exceeding the size of 18” x 13” x 7” fails to take into account the amount of gear carried by journalists, in particular those who use such items to transport broadcast equipment. While we believe that the press may not have any greater right than the public to access, we also think that it is short-sighted for municipalities that fail to recognize valid exceptions to any rule.

In preparation for the conventions, the NPPA, supported by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of SPJ, provided training to police in Cleveland and Philadelphia regarding the First Amendment rights of citizens and journalists to photograph and record in public. We greatly appreciate those departments’ willingness to help avoid unnecessary and improper interference, harassment and arrests of those doing nothing more than exercising a constitutional right.

Despite those efforts, journalists are still being detained and arrested while covering newsworthy matters as we saw most recently in Rochester, N.Y., and Baton Rouge, La. We strongly object to these unwarranted abridgments of the First Amendment. Regrettably, it appears that some law enforcement agencies have yet to learn the lessons from similar arrests during protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, which are now costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle the ensuing civil rights lawsuits.

The NPPA will also be working with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in staffing a 24-hour a day hotline providing free legal aid to journalists facing arrest, detention or other such problems while covering the political conventions, or any protests or other events affiliated with the conventions. The hotline attorneys will also work with attorneys from who will be present in the convention cities, and will attempt to coordinate activities with other legal assistance organizations in both cities. That toll-free number is 800-336-4243. Lawyers can also be reached via email at hotline@rcfp.org and via Twitter @rcfp and @nppalawyer.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Since its founding in 1946, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has been the Voice of Visual Journalists. As a 501(c)(6) non-profit professional organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism, its creation, editing and distribution in all news media, NPPA encourages visual journalists to reflect the highest standards of quality and ethics in their professional performance, in their business practices and in their comportment. Our organization vigorously advocates for and protects the Constitutional rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press and speech in all its forms, especially as it relates to visual journalism.

RTDNA is the world’s largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTDNA members include local and network news executives, news directors, producers, reporters, photographers, editors, multimedia journalists and digital news professionals in broadcasting, cable and digital media, as well as journalism educators and students. Founded as a grassroots organization in 1946, RTDNA works to protect the rights of electronic journalists in the courts and legislatures throughout the country, promotes ethical standards in the industry, provides members with training and education and honors outstanding work in the profession through the Edward R. Murrow Awards. The Association's members help shape the future of the journalism profession as we protect their interests by advocating on their behalf and lobbying in their interest. We defend the First Amendment, advocate for open government and freedom of information, and promote diversity in newsroom staffing and coverage.

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