Freedom of Speech

NY photojournalist gets cameras back after arrest, but not press credentials

NPPA | The New York Times
Robert Stolarik’s cameras were confiscated when he was arrested on Aug. 4 while photographing police on a public street. He has them back now, but he still hasn’t received his press credentials. Stolarik met with NYPD’s Internal Affairs unit on Monday to discuss his complaint against the officers who beat and arrested him.

In an interview with the Times, NPPA lawyer Mickey Osterreicher says “the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into an assault on photography,” both by the press and the general public.

“Literally every day, someone is being arrested for doing nothing more than taking a photograph in a public place. It makes no sense to me. Photography is an expression of free speech,” Osterreicher says.

NYPD has issued guidelines telling officers not to interfere with the press, but Osterreicher said the problem persists.

I believe that the problem is it’s ingrained in the police culture. The idea of serve and protect has somehow changed, for some officers, to include protecting the public from being photographed.

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Study: Happiest countries have press freedom

University of Missouri
Freedom of the press is a reliable indicator of a country’s happiness, journalism doctoral student Edson Tandoc Jr. concludes in a new study. Tandoc and Michigan State University’s Bruno Takahashi compared 2010 Gallup data on countries’ happiness levels with Freedom House’s press freedom index and countries’ environmental and developmental rankings.The University of Missouri reports:

Tandoc found that the more press freedom a country enjoyed, the higher the levels of life satisfaction, or happiness, of its citizens tended to be.

Wonderful news! But don’t we fall into the ol’ correlation-isn’t-causation problem here?

Tandoc also found that countries with higher levels of press freedom enjoyed better environmental quality and higher levels of human development, both of which also contribute to life satisfaction. He credits this to the watchdog function of the press, which helps expose corruption of all levels in a community.

I did a little on-the-fly peer review of my own, comparing this Huffington Post slideshow about countries that indexed well for happiness (based on that 2010 Gallup data) with international sales of “Call Me Maybe.”

In three of the happiest countries — Denmark, Finland and Panama — the song is still No. 1. In all the countries in the slideshow, “Call Me Maybe” is still on the charts. That said, it’s also No. 1 in Venezuela, Mexico and Italy, none of which Reporters Without Borders rates particularly high for press freedom. Read more


Romney boots reporters from Newseum event, media critics debate nature of irony

Politico | The Washington Post
Mitt Romney’s campaign kicked reporters out of an event at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum on Wednesday night. Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone’s tweet about the news stresses its irony: “a combination of circumstances or a result that is the opposite of what is or might be expected or considered appropriate [an irony that the firehouse burned].” (Webster’s New World, Fourth Edition, definition 3)

This led to a bit of a smackdown from Politico media reporter Dylan Byers, who while allowing that the “optics” of this action weren’t ideal, wrote that it represented the “status quo”:

In this case, the campaign was merely providing the guests with an opportunity to have an off-the-record conversation with the candidate. Reporters were allowed to cover the 30-minute speech, which was on the record, and then moved out of the room.

That would be definition 4a: “a cool, detached attitude of mind, characterized by recognition of the incongruities and complexities of experience.” Read more


Search engine results are protected by First Amendment, argues law professor | paidContent | All Things Digital
Newspapers make judgments about where to place stories. So do search engines, Eugene Volokh argues in a new paper commissioned by Google, and their editorial judgment should be considered protected speech. Search engines are “speakers,” Volokh writes:

The government may not tell the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report how to rank the news stories or opinion articles to which they link. Likewise, it may not do so for other speakers, such as search engines.

PaidContent’s Jeff John Roberts says this position means Google, which commissioned the report, could assert that squashing search results from competitors is protected speech:

In practice, this would mean Google has the right to punt sites like Yelp, which has complained that Google is a monopolist, to the search equivalent of Siberia if it decided that was best for users (Yelp now comes up second in a search for “restaurant review”).

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On World Press Freedom Day, Equatorial Guinea lives up to its low ranking

Committee to Protect Journalists
The government of Equatorial Guinea responded to its distinction as the fifth most-censored country in the world by holding a news conference at which President Teodoro Obiang declared, “There are really no restrictions on any activity of the press, provided they are legal.” That message must not have made it to the head of the state-owned broadcaster, who on the same day “barred Samuel Obiang Mbana, an independent journalist … from participating in a televised debate to which he had been invited two days earlier to speak on how press freedom could transform the country.” Mbana tells CPJ’s Peter Nkanga, “I was told I am problematic, that I might say something the station is censored not to say, and which the government doesn’t want aired.” || Related: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honors journalists on World Press Freedom Day (U.S. Department of State) Read more


Should journalists show support for Trayvon Martin, ask for Scott Walker’s recall?

Two separate incidents involving journalists who work for Gannett and ESPN have renewed attention to the issue of how journalists should exercise their right to free speech.

Earlier this week, editors and publishers at several Gannett papers said that its journalists had violated the company’s values by signing petitions calling for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall. ESPN, meanwhile, dropped its ban on staff posting photos of themselves wearing hoodies to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin.

These news organizations’ decisions raise interesting questions: Which of these types of speech should journalists feel free to exercise? And should journalists who are covering these stories limit their speech more than those who aren’t?

We asked our Twitter followers about this (take our poll here), and hosted a related live chat with Reuters’ Jack Shafer. During the chat, we discussed both situations and responded to feedback and questions from chat participants.

You can replay the chat here …

<a href=”” mce_href=”” >What types of free speech should journalists be free to exercise?</a> Read more


College adviser wins job back, but there’s no newspaper to advise

First Amendment Center | Student Press Law Center
Gerian Steven Moore has won his job back at Chicago State University after a judge ruled that he had been fired because Tempo, the student newspaper that he advised, had published stories critical of the university. Trouble is, Tempo stopped publishing in April 2009, and the judge decided not to force the school to reinstate it. The judge ruled that student interest in the paper probably waned after it ceased publication and  editor George Providence II left the school, following multiple clashes with the administration over press freedom. “A win for the university’s students … would include a free and independent campus newspaper,” writes the First Amendment Center’s Douglas E. Lee. The school has to bring Moore back as executive director for communications or offer him a similar job, according to the Student Press Law Center. || Related: Student adviser fired from ECU appeals termination on First Amendment grounds (Poynter) Read more


Aggressive local blogger served with cease-and-desist letter

New Times Broward-Palm Beach
Local blogger/rabble-rouser Chaz Stevens “is a hard puppy to love.” The line at the top of his blog says “professional ball busting,” and he’s not opposed to referring to public officials with profane nicknames or sending the city of Lauderdale Lakes public records requests like this:

Do you folks have one of those Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville margarita makers over in Finance? If that is the case, can you kindly ask that they don’t start whipping up some strawberry frothy delights until after, say 3pm? … Kindly have someone put down the Ronrico, step away from the blender (carefully avoiding stepping on a pop top), and get me my data.

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Aided by Silicon Valley, U.S. government ferrets out journalists’ confidential sources

The New York Times | Scripting News
Two Times stories over the weekend focused on threats to journalists’ ability to keep their sources confidential. One of those threats is familiar to journalists: the government. The other is relatively new: Silicon Valley. Both hinge on reporters’ increasing reliance on electronic, third-party means of communication.

First, the Times’ Adam Liptak describes how the U.S. government is increasingly using technological means to ferret out leakers. He writes about the government’s case against former CIA agent John C. Kiriakou, who is accused of leaking classified information to journalists about a captured Al Qaeda operative:

The criminal complaint in the case says it is based largely on “e-mails recovered from search warrants served on two e-mail accounts associated with Kiriakou.” …

“The Kiriakou complaint is astonishing,” said [Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood], “because you see the government delving into the innards of the news production process.”

Only one of the journalists involved in the Kiriakou case has been publicly identified: Scott Shane of The Times. A spokeswoman for The Times has said that neither the paper nor Mr. Shane had been contacted by investigators or had provided any information to them. The digital trail, it seems, was enough.

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SPLC says Missourian’s noncompete policy violates First Amendment

J-School Buzz | Student Press Law Center
J-School Buzz, an independent blog covering the Missouri School of Journalism, has found an ally in its complaints about the Columbia Missourian’s policy forbidding its student reporters to work for other media. Adam Goldstein of the Student Press Law Center believes the Missourian’s policy violates the First Amendment, in part because the Missourian isn’t a typical student-run newspaper. It’s overseen by faculty members, who are state employees. He says the Missourian’s conflict of interest policy boils down to this: “a public university imposing limitations on free speech.” And he finds the policy ironic considering the more obvious conflicts present at Missourian:

It’s hard to see how an organization edited by people who are full-time paid agents of the entity it most frequently covers, who also happens to be the biggest employer in town, could ever have a conflicts policy that isn’t a joke.

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