by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 8th 2009 12:58pm
Late last year, we found it silly that three journalists were suing the NY Police Department, claiming their First Amendment rights were violated because the police refused to give them press passes. As we noted, freedom of the press doesn't mean that anyone has to give those journalists access. If I remember correctly, that case was eventually settled with the journalists being given press passes again, but a similar case in California has gone all the way to a ruling, with the court finding that the First Amendment does not automatically grant journalists access (via Romenesko). In this case, a photojournalist was trying to photograph a car accident scene, and police barred him from the scene and eventually handcuffed him. The judge found that while the press should be allowed to have the same access as the public had, the public isn't granted access to crime scenes, so it's entirely reasonable for the police to order the press away from a crime scene. Of course, there are separate issues here which weren't addressed, including that the police didn't just ask him to leave, but at one point said "You don't need to take these kind of photos." One could make an argument that statements like that could go over the line.
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