Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Citizen Journalist In America

The Dredd Blog System has only touched upon the nature of citizen journalism in America, and why citizen journalism is needed now more than ever (see The Free Press Is Very Far From Here, Not-So-Free Press Files Bankruptcy - 2, Not-So-Free Press Files Bankruptcy, Warriors Press For Propaganda - 3, Warriors Press For Propaganda - 2, Warriors Press For Propaganda, GE Serves The Pentagon On TV Near Yoo, GE Serves The Pentagon On TV Near Yoo - 2, Stockholm Syndrome on Steroids? - 2, Survival Of The Fittest Willie McTell, The Matriarch of The Matrix).

So, to improve upon past coverage, today we focus on the citizen journalist exclusively, because the issue is important in the Occupy Movement context, and because citizen journalists are ultimately involved in the "free press" in America today.

Let's begin by noting that Dredd Blog does NOT include the corporate for-profit media of any sort, including the main stream media, in the term "free press", because they have let down the American people (see PBS - Citizen Journalist).

You might want to view the jaw-dropping video at the bottom of this post before proceeding, but just in case you don't, I will summarize by saying it is a news story from a main stream source quoting from a citizen journalist.

The citizen journalist is facing 75 years in prison for video-taping police performing public duties.

When the main stream media goes to the court house to inquire further, they are intimidated by officials there who warn them not to show what they have captured on video.

The lawyer for that main stream media news organization told them to obey the officials.

Thus, the main stream media cower while the citizen journalist stands up for his your rights, even facing what would be life in prison at his age ("give me liberty or give me death" comes to mind).

It might be excusable that the British are suffering confusion on that issue, as noted in a Guardian Article concerning the photographing of police.

That should not be the case for Americans, but alas, our nation has drifted away from our founding principles such much so that today America has morphed into a strange nation that suffers amnesia.

The question of the citizen journalist's right to take pictures of police performing their duties in public should be a no-brainer to Americans who have exposed themselves to Civics 101, specifically the First Amendment.

First, notice that "free press" citizen journalists are not required to be licensed by the state, nor can general constraint be imposed:
The press in its connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion ... We think that the ordinance is invalid on its face. Whatever the motive which induced its adoption, its character is such that it strikes at the very foundation of the freedom of the press by subjecting it to license and censorship.
(Lovell v City of Griffin GA, U.S. Supreme Ct., 1938). Not only that, "free press" citizen journalism includes all legal means for gathering that news data, and any police or other official who improperly hampers that collection of data is personally liable to the citizen journalist for damages:
Simon Glik was arrested for using his cell phone's digital video camera to film several police officers arresting a young man on the Boston Common. The charges against Glik, which included violation of Massachusetts's wiretap statute and two other state-law offenses, were subsequently judged baseless and were dismissed. Glik then brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his arrest for filming the officers constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments ... The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.
It is firmly established that the First Amendment's aegis extends further than the text's proscription on laws "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information.As the Supreme Court has observed, "the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw." ("It is ... well established that the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas.").

An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that "[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news 'from any source by means within the law.'" ... The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting "the free discussion of governmental affairs." ... Moreover, as the Court has noted, "[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because '[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'" ... (quoting Thomas Emerson, Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment 9 (1966)). This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.
(Glik v. Cunniffe, U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, 2011, PDF). The court was quite clear that police officers who wrongfully interfere with citizen journalists, and cities, counties, and states who allow them to do so, can be liable for very large sums of money damages, injunctions, and the like.

So you in the free press, including bloggers, all citizens filming the police in Occupy Movement locations around the USA, as well those like Dredd Blog who perform a public service for the people, let's keep the First Amendment alive.

The next post in this series is here.

In further preparation for the military junta state, to Big Brother it is a felony to be a citizen journalist, to videotape Big Brother's minions abusing peaceful citizens who are only exercising their constitutional rights:

The Dredd Blog System considers these citizens to be anti-toxins to the sickness caused by the toxins of power infecting the nation at this time. See (An Example of an Antitoxin, An Example of an Antitoxin - 2).