posts about or somewhat related to ‘first amendment’

As the depth and breadth of TV news has decreased – especially at the local level – communities have fewer and fewer sources of meaningful election coverage. The result is that people now receive the majority of their information about candidates from campaign ads – not from the news. In their recent future of media report the FCC noted that in 2006, “viewers of local news in the Midwest got 2.5 times more information about local elections from paid advertisements than from newscasts.”…

…And as campaign ads have become huge windfalls for TV broadcasters, there is little market motivation to change this equation. More than two-thirds of all campaign spending in the last election went to TV stations. In 2008, TV commercials ate up at least $2.8 billion in campaign funds nationwide. In the wake of the Citizen’s United decision political advertising broke the $400 million mark in the 2010 election. It is a paradox of our media moment that technology has put a printing press in almost everyone’s hands, but increasingly freedom of speech and the press is only available to those who can pay.
[C]hanges 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 [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.

Judge Kermit Lipez, US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in a ruling in favor of Simon Glik, a Massachusetts man arrested for videotaping police officers with his cell phone as they detained another man. Glik was accused of illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner and disturbing the peace. 

Matthew Ingram, GigaOm, Freedom of the press applies to everyone — yes, even bloggers.

Photographers: Know Your Rights →

The ACLU’s published a photographer’s cheat sheet on their rights when shooting in the field (US only):

  • When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view.
  • When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs.
  • Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant.
  • Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
  • Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.
  • Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws.

Click through for explanations of each, advice on what to do if stopped or detained, exceptions for shooting around airports and special considerations for videography (eg., “With regards to videotaping, there is an important legal distinction between a visual photographic record (fully protected) and the audio portion of a videotape, which some states have tried to regulate under state wiretapping laws.”)

A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook

Leonie Brinkema, US Federal Judge. United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling.

In a case involving an ex-CIA agent accused of revealing classified national security information, the US government tried to force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (NPR review and excerpt).

Earlier this month Brinkema ruled Risen would not have to testify.

As explained by Charlie Savage in the New York Times:

The judge wrote that Mr. Risen was protected by a limited “reporter’s privilege” under the First Amendment, meaning that prosecutors had to prove that there was a compelling need for the reporter’s testimony and there that were no other means of obtaining the equivalent of that testimony. The government argued that such a privilege did not exist, but she recounted numerous other cases -– though none as high profile as the C.I.A. leak case -– in which other federal judges had invoked it.

Some background as we’ve followed this case is here.

This is an important victory for the First Amendment, and for the freedom of the press in the United States. Some people don’t seem to understand the connection between the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources and a free press. But if whistleblowers in government, in corporations, and elsewhere in society can be hounded and persecuted, and if the Justice Department is able to use its power to turn reporters into informants, then investigative journalism in America will surely wither and die. The First Amendment will have lost its meaning.

Email from the New York Times’ James Risen to Salon’s Glenn Greenwald.

On Friday, a judge ruled that Risen would not have to testify about the identity of a source during the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official.

Sterling was arrested in January and is accused of leaking classified information to Risen.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon. Obama’s whistleblower war suffers two defeats.

I take very seriously my obligations as a journalist when reporting about matters that may be classified or may implicate national security concerns. I do not always publish all information that I have, even if it is newsworthy and true. If I believe that the publication of the information would cause real harm to our national security, I will not publish a piece. I have found, however, that all too frequently, the government claims that publication of certain information will harm national security, when in reality, the government’s real concern is about covering up its own wrongdoing or avoiding embarrassment…

…Any testimony I were to provide to the Government would compromise to a significant degree my ability to continue reporting as well as the ability of other journalists to do so. This is particularly true in my current line of work covering stories relating to national security, intelligence and terrorism. If I aided the Government in its effort to prosecute my confidential source(s) for providing information to me under terms of confidentiality, I would inevitably be compromising my own ability to gather news in the future. I also believe that I would be impeding all other reporters’ ability to gather and report the news in the future.

James Risen, in an affidavit (PDF) asking a federal judge to dismiss the US government’s attempts to get him to identify his confidential sources in the upcoming trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a CIA officer accused of leaking classified information.

Via Secrecy News.

Background via Politico.

Blogger Reports Truth, Gets Hit With $60,000 Fine →

A Minnesota blogger was fined $60,000 for publishing posts that implicated a community leader in mortgage fraud.

Despite the accuracy of his reporting, a jury awarded the former community leader $35,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress.

The blogger, John Hoff, says he will appeal, writing, “The First Amendment itself is under attack, and this blogger will not back down from the battle.”

First Amendment scholars are watching the case to see what effect it may have on citizen journalism.

Bigfoot Sues for First Amendment Rights →

Jonathan Doyle likes to dress up like Bigfoot, run around New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock, film and then interview people’s reactions to seeing him.

The State says this is a no-no until he pays for a permit and gets a $2 million insurance bond to film

Doyle, and the ACLU, says this violates his free speech rights.

Via the BBC:

Mr Doyle said no complaints had been made to the state park service in 2009 when he first dressed as Bigfoot, traversed Mount Monadnock, then took off his costume and interviewed bystanders about what they had seen.

"People loved it. It was socially engaging," the 30-year-old told AP.

But when Mr Doyle announced he would head back to the mountain on 19 September last year, Monadnock park manager Patrick Hummel brought it to the attention of his supervisor in an e-mail entitled “Bigfoot problem on Monadnock… not kidding”.

Mr Hummel then intercepted Mr Doyle during his next outing, barring the film-maker and his friends from filming and requiring them to obtain a permit.

"Jonathan Doyle started this thing with nothing but good humour and intentions," said Barbara Keshen, a lawyer for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. "But it does have serious overtones."

What say you? Do filmmakers and other media creators need permission and permits when in or on public places and spaces?

The Role of Secrecy in Journalism

Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, speaks at a Nieman Lab event about the organization’s relationship to state secrets in light of WikiLeaks.

Important is his discussion of what — and what not — the Times decides to publish, its relationship with the government, and the role of whistle blowing in a democratic society.

Bill Keller Keynote Address

Bill Keller, Q&A

Click to listen, right click to download.

For instant response to the talk, follow #Niemanleaks. Nieman Lab can be followed on Twitter and, of course, their Web site.

Columbia Journalism School professors write to the White House.

While we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment. Any prosecution of Wikileaks’ staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity.