U.S. Capitol Police order journalists to delete photos, videos

July 26, 2017 11:00

The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force today expressed concern regarding actions taken Tuesday by the U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and U.S. Capitol Police officers to prevent journalists from taking photos or videos of officers arresting protesters outside the Senate chamber.
A number of news outlets, including the digital publication The Daily Dot, report Capitol Police ordered journalists not to photo the arrests, and ordered journalists who had taken photos and videos to delete them. They also were reportedly told that the public hallway in which they were standing was a “crime scene,” so they had to leave.
Some of the impacted journalists tweeted about it at the time, including HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery, The Daily Beast’s Andrew Desiderio, and New York Post Washington bureau chief Gabby Morrongiello.



“Every American, journalist or not, has a Constitutional right to photograph or record law enforcement officers performing their duties in public,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director, who spearheads the task force. “At least a half dozen federal appeals courts have upheld those rights. The U.S. Capitol police and indeed all law enforcement agencies are, or should be, aware of the First Amendment’s protections for people merely trying to document officers’ actions in a lawful manner.”
On July 7, the task force applauded the most recent federal appeals court ruling in this regard, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.
“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,” Shelley said. “It’s baffling that members of one of the federal government’s best-trained, most highly respected law enforcement agencies in the country would not know that.”
The protesters were removed from the Senate gallery, and arrested, after disrupting a Senate procedural vote on whether to proceed with debate on proposed legislation to repeal, and, possibly, replace the Affordable Care Act.
RTDNA formed the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. People wishing to support RTDNA’s efforts may reach out to the task force by emailing pressfreedom@rtdna.org.