RTDNA urges Capitol Police to respect First Amendment

July 27, 2017 12:45

RTDNA has joined several journalism groups in urging the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms and the U.S. Capitol Police to respect the First Amendment rights of people (citizens and journalists) to record police activity with photos and videos. A letter outlines the groups' concerns, in response to an incident at the capitol on July 25, when reporters attempted to document protesters who interrupted a Senate’s vote. Reporters said they were ordered not to photograph a "crime scene" and told to delete photos and videos that included police actions.

The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force spoke out against the police orders. “What’s disturbing about the reported actions of the U.S. Capitol Police on Tuesday is that there’s absolutely no ambiguity about journalists’ and other citizens’ rights in this regard,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director.

The journalism organizations, including RTDNA, SPJ and NPPA, say the police orders violate the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, regarding press freedom, protection against unreasonable searches and due process. The orders would also be inconsistent with the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, which forbids an officer to seize a reporter’s material, and a U.S. Department of Justice directive stating, “under the First Amendment, there are no circumstances under which the contents of a camera or recording device should be deleted or destroyed.”

The incident comes in the wake of threats last month to prohibit a wide range of recording and newsgathering in Senate hallways; from which Senate leaders backed down after journalism groups raised strong objections.

You can read the full letter here.