The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

Free Speech and Digital Rights Groups Call on Department of Justice to Protect Everyone's Right to Record


On Thursday, nine leading free speech and digital rights groups called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to focus attention on the alarming number of arrests of people documenting Occupy protests. Free Press has chronicled more than 70 such arrests since last September.

In a letter being delivered to Holder today, World Press Freedom Day, Free Press, along with Access, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Press Photographers Association, the New America Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders and Witness, noted that U.S. police have arrested dozens of journalists, activists and bystanders attempting to document protests in public spaces.

In January, the Justice Department filed a statement urging the U.S. District Court of Maryland to uphold an individual's "First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties" and to find that "officers violate citizens' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize and destroy such recordings without warrant or due process."

For the full text of the letter sent to the Justice Department, go to:

Free Press Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director Josh Stearns made the following statement:

"The right to record is vital at a time when so many people who witness public protests are carrying networked, camera-ready devices and smartphones. As the media landscape changes, we are witnessing an escalation in First Amendment abuses on the streets and in the halls of power. Freedom of the press is more important, not less, when anyone with a mobile phone or computer can act as a journalist.

"The First Amendment guarantees both freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and those freedoms extend to everyone documenting public events. That's true even if -- or perhaps, especially if -- law enforcement finds such reporting to be a nuisance. Now, more than ever, we need to proactively protect people's right to record."

Free Press was created to give people a voice in the crucial decisions that shape our media. We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what's actually happening in their communities.

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