News Organizations Complain About Treatment During Protests
Monday 21 November 2011
Brian Stelter, The New York Times News Service | Report via Truthout
A cross-section of 13 news organizations in New York City lodged complaints on Monday about the New York Police Department’s treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement. Separately, 10 press clubs, unions and other groups that represent journalists called for an investigation and said they had formed a coalition to monitor police behavior going forward.
Monday’s actions were prompted by a rash of incidents on Nov. 15, when police officers impeded and even arrested reporters during and after the evictions of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the two-month-old movement.
At a news conference after the park was cleared that day, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media were kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”
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The news organizations said in a joint letter to the Police Department that officers had clearly violated their own procedures by threatening, arresting and injuring reporters and photographers. The letter said there were “numerous inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, actions and abuses” by the police against both “credentialed and noncredentialed journalists in the last few days.” It requested an immediate meeting with the city’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, and his chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne.
The letter was written by George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel for The New York Times Company, and signed by representatives for The Associated Press, The New York Post, The Daily News, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones & Company, and three local television stations, WABC, WCBS and WNBC. It was also signed by representatives for the National Press Photographers Association, New York Press Photographers Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the New York Press Club.
“Over the past few months we have tried to work with D.C.P.I. to improve police-press relations,” the letter stated, using shorthand for the department commissioner of public information. “However, if anything, the police actions of last week have been more hostile to the press than any other event in recent memory.”
Similarly, the New York Press Club and other groups that represent journalists said Monday that “what the police did on November 15th to suppress coverage of their activities was intolerable.” The groups called for an investigation into the police action and said a new group, the Coalition for the First Amendment, would “monitor relations” between the police and the press.
“We are determined to use any means needed to fight such censorship in the future,” the groups said.
The groups involved are the Deadline Club and its foundation, the Newspaper Guild of New York, the News Media Guild, the New York Press Club and its foundation, the Newswomen’s Club of New York, the New York Press Photographers Association, the Society of Silurians, and the New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Last week, individual journalism groups filed complaints about the restrictions and arrests on Nov. 15, resulting in renewed scrutiny of how the Police Department processes requests for press credentials. The New York Times reported Monday that of the 10 reporters arrested in New York that day, half had city-issued press credentials.
In a memorandum last week, Stu Loeser, the press secretary for Mr. Bloomberg, said “there’s no doubt” that some of the arrested reporters “were in fact trespassing.” The arrests were voided, Mr. Loeser noted.
“That they were never formally charged,” Monday’s letter from Mr. Freeman stated, “still does not mitigate the fact that their detention prevented them from carrying out their journalistic functions.”