Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Arrested for Photographing the Police: Policy Forum Wednesday

The Cato Institute will hold a policy forum on Wednesday, September 22, on "Recording the Police: Is Citizen Journalism against the Law?"

In Maryland a motorcyclist was arrested and charged with breaking the state's wiretapping laws for videoing a police officer who pulled him over. If convicted, he faces 16 years in prison. In Seattle, a man was taken into custody when he photographed the police arresting somebody on the street. In Texas a man was arrested for photographing a police officer on his own property. In Boston a lawyer was arrested for videoing the police arresting somebody for drugs, and charged with "aiding escape" and disturbing the peace. I was stopped by security officers from photographing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in downtown DC.

We have the right to photograph the police (or anyone else) on a public street. But the use of wiretapping laws to prevent people from exercising their First Amendment rights to record police activity is becoming an increasingly common phenomena. And it's an important issue, because the exercise of our First Amendment rights is fundamental to our democracy. There's more information about Wednesday's policy forum on the Cato Institute's website. If you can't attend the noon forum, you can watch it online.

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