As part of a settlement of a lawsuit by a visual journalist who had his press credentials seized at the scene of a construction site accident in Manhattan, the NYPD, in early July issued a notice seeking public comment on a proposed rule to clarify its policy governing when summary suspensions or revocations of NYPD-issued press credentials may be appropriate, and further set forth governing procedures for hearings associated with summary suspensions and/or revocations.
In response the NPPA, joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York News Publishers Association (NYNPA), New York Press Photographers Association (NYPPA), First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund (PFDF), the Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) submitted written comments drafted by general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, who also testified remotely at a public hearing held yesterday.
In part, those comments expressed that, while the proposed rule represents an important next step — because it better defines and strengthens the procedural due process rights of journalists with DCPI-issued press credentials — we have serious concerns about the stated justifications and conditions under which a “summary” suspension or revocation may be made or determined which must be more clearly and narrowly defined; and which affords NYPD far too much discretion by which to threaten to seize, or indeed seize credentials.
NPPA recommended that rather than permitting the seizure and/or “summary” suspension of a press credential followed by a hearing, we propose that a hearing be held first with suspension following a due process determination. We also urged that the timelines for notice and adjudication must be accelerated, to not deprive journalists of their credentials any longer than necessary.
NPPA also argued that part of the determination for a suspension should be based upon “lawful arrests for felonies and misdemeanors related to a journalist’s immediate newsgathering activities” rather than for suspensions based on “lawful arrests for misdemeanors and violations,” which is far too broad especially given that “photography is not a crime” and to blunt the “catch and release” charges such as disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration we have seen NYPD employ to inhibit newsgathering activities.
Additionally, having the Public Information Division Commanding Officer as the hearing officer, creates a perceived, if not actual conflict of interest which must be adequately remedied, by either proposing a different, neutral party or creating a 3-person panel that would hear these matters.
Finally, NPPA repeated its ongoing offer to provide free training to NYPD officers regarding First Amendment protections for newsgathering, as we have done for so many law enforcement agencies.
See comments at: http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/sites/default/files/proposed_rules_sup_docs/nppa-nypd_comment_-_press_credential_amendments_08-17-20.pdf
Also see the NY Daily News Story: NYPD holds public hearing on proposed updates to rules on when and how cops can revoke ...