News media members covering the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., repeatedly have been asked by local law enforcement to stop videotaping and photographing protests, which legal experts is not supported up by court precedent and amounts to First Amendment violations, Politico reports. Federal courts repeatedly have affirmed the rights of citizens and members of the press to record on-duty police officers. Citizens have been arrested under state wiretapping laws that ban audio recording in some instances and for other offenses like obstruction or interference with an ongoing investigation.
The National Press Photographers Association sent a letter yesterday to Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson objecting to his department's treatment of the media. The association cited a “complete lack of understanding and respect for the First Amendment as it applies to newsgathering.” “While it is understandable that your officers may have a heightened sense of awareness during these encounters that is still no excuse for them to not recognize's a person's (citizen or journalists) right to photograph or record an event occurring in a public place,” NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher wrote.