Franklin Center President Jason Stverak was a featured columnist in Online Journalism Review this month. In his article, he discusses the recent federal court ruling that recording public officials, including police officers, is protected by the First Amendment. This decision, which may outrage law enforcement officials and members of Congress, is one of the first federal court decisions that brings the First Amendment into the Internet age.
An excerpt of the article is below and you can read it in its entirety at FranklinCenterHQ.org.
Federal court ruling provides a victory for grassroots journalism
Written by Jason Stverak
This case emerged from an incident where a private citizen used his personal cell phone to capture alleged police brutality.
Simon Glik could have walked away when he saw two police officers punching a man in the face. Instead, he pulled out his cellphone and started recording it. When Mr. Glik informed the police officers that he was recording audio, the officer arrested him for violating the state's wiretap law. He also was charged with disturbing the peace and aiding the escape of a prisoner. The charges were dropped eventually because of lack of merit, but Mr. Glik filed a lawsuit claiming his free-speech rights had been violated.
This latest ruling is especially relevant to those who consider themselves citizen journalists. Before the court's decision, members of the general public did not have the legal protection guaranteed by state shield laws enjoyed by credentialed journalists.
The court decision, in part, reads:
"Changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status."