Philly.com: Atkins Reports on First Amendment Debate

April 17, 2012 Sarah Schwartz

Philly.com featured “Under arrest for journalism,” written by Larry Atkins, Adjunct Professor of Journalism. The article follows the recent arraignment of Ian Van Kuyk, who was arrested after he refused to stop photographing a traffic stop, asserting his first amendment rights.

The officers allegedly pushed, shoved, and threw Van Kuyk to the ground before handcuffing him. Van Kuyk’s girlfriend, who tried to rescue his camera, was also charged with obstruction and disorderly conduct.

The National Press Photographers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union have shown appropriate interest in the case.

“There is no excuse for your officers to intentionally disregard a citizen’s right to photograph an event occurring in a public place,” Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel to the photographers’ association, wrote in a letter to Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey last month, the Student Press Law Center reported. “Law enforcement agencies are established to uphold and enforce existing laws, not to use them as a pretext to punish someone exercising their free speech right to photograph in public.”

A Temple News editorial also condemned the arrest, calling it a “blatant abuse of power” that showed “disregard for freedom of speech.”

In September, Ramsey issued a memo clarifying the department’s policy on photographing and videotaping of officers. It said officers “should reasonably anticipate and expect to be photographed, videotaped and/or be audibly recorded by members of the public,” and should not interfere with members of the public recording them while they are acting in an official capacity.

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