Franklin Center - ICYMI: First Amendment victory for citizen journalists

Today, Washington Times ran an editorial from Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center. It discusses the recent court decision to allow citizens to film government officials, including police officers, in public. This decision is important to citizen journalists who are not protected under any shield laws or credentials. It is also one of the first cases that opens the definition for “the press” in the Constitution.

An excerpt of the editorial is below:

Freedom of the press belongs to everyone, not just ‘official’ reporters
 By Jason Stverak
The Washington Times


In a landmark decision, a federal court ruled last week 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.

This case emerged from separate incidents in which private citizens usedpersonal video cameras or cellphones to capture alleged police brutality.

The first occurred when Khaliah Fitchette, a New Jersey teenager, boarded a bus in Newark. As she waited for the bus to depart, two police officers boarded the bus to forcefully remove a drunken passenger. Ms. Fitchette began taping the police officers and refused to quit upon officer request. She was arrested and detained while the police deleted her footage. No charges were filed against Ms. Fitchette, but she filed a lawsuit against the Newark Police Department with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey.

The second incident occurred in Boston when Simon Glik pulled out his cellphone to tape police officers punching a man on the street. An officer asked Mr. Glik if he was recording audio. When Mr. Glik admitted that he was, 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 joined the ACLU lawsuit, claiming his free-speech rights had been violated.

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