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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Press rights battle brews
as NATO summit looms

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stood up for the public’s right to be informed about the actions of public officials Tuesday when it declared unconstitutional provisions in the Illinois wiretapping law that prohibits audio recording of police activity in public places.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had argued in a friend-of-the-court brief to the Chicago-based court that the overbroad law was a danger to journalists’ and the public’s First Amendment rights.

“This decision is a First Amendment slam-dunk. The court could not have been clearer about the importance of protecting the public’s right to observe and record the actions of public officials in public places,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “Although Chicago police had indicated they would not enforce the law during the NATO Summit later this month – which we all expect will be accompanied by protests and police activity – it’s nice to have the force of the court’s decision on the right to record those events.”

“The notion that audio recording police activity in a public place, where there is no expectation of privacy, constitutes a felony is absurd and advances absolutely no government interest,” Dalglish added. “We are delighted that the appeals court agreed.”

The Reporters Committee was joined it its amicus brief in ACLU v. Alvarez by six news industry associations. An RCFP summary of today's opinion can be found here.

On Wednesday, May 9, the Reporters Committee will host a free webinar for reporters and photographers covering protests and other public events where arrests might occur. The webinar will explain their rights to collect news, as well as what to do if they are arrested. Information and registration is on the Reporters Committee website.

To aid reporters and photographers who may be detained, arrested or otherwise thwarted from covering protests and other off-program activity at the NATO Summit May 21-22, the Reporters Committee has partnered with the Chicago law firm of Mandell Menkes LLC to provide a 24-7 legal hotline. The Reporters Committee also will be offering hotlines during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Aug. 27-30 (with the firm Thomas & LoCicero), and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Sept. 3-6 (with the firm McGuireWoods LLP). Local numbers will be posted on the Reporters Committee website,, and the year-round Reporters Committee hotline will also be available at 800-336-4243. 

Control freaks angle to strangle new media 

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