R&R for police and press
Not rest & recreation, but rights and responsibilities. For cops and correspondents. Like exists in New York:
Jumpy police are jumping on South African reporters and photojournalists all too often these days. Last week the Sowetan, last year, Grocott's Mail, and yet others in between.
Here's my contribution to a Charter of rights and responsibilities:
It's a draft protocol for police and press at crime scenes, accidents, disasters and demonstrations, drawn from USA experience, including the NYPD guidelines:
1. Rights of journalists in regard to police:
• As part of the constitutional right to media freedom, journalists are entitled to seek out news.
• Journalists, like the public, have a right to be on public property (eg. Streets, parks, pavements), where they can pursue their newsgathering.
• They have a right to report on the police as public figures, both in photographs, notes and audio or video recordings.
• Where journalists are kept at a distance from an event, they should have a right to remain in line of sight as far as possible.
• Where journalists have press cards, they have a right to benefit from any specific access dispensations (such as crossing a line) as may have been negotiated with the police for formal representatives of the media.
2. Rights of the police in regard to journalists:
• Police have right to take necessary measures to maintain safety or proceed with an investigation.
• This right may override the media’s right to access, and police retain the right to arrest journalists who refuse to adhere to legitimate police instructions regarding access.
• Police have a right to not respond to queries by journalists while on a scene, including releasing identities of persons involved.
3. Responsibilities of police towards journalists:
• Police must respect press credentials upon display of a Press Card.
• Members of the police must identify themselves upon request.
• Police may not use arbitrary or ineligible rationales for excluding journalists from public scenes, and can only exclude journalists when absolutely necessary for law enforcement or public safety (including safety of the journalists themselves).
• Police should motivate fully to the media for any decision to restrict access.
• Police may not take journalists’ cameras, tape, or notes, nor delete digital images nor sound, unless there is a clear basis that this is necessary to investigate a particular legitimate charge against the journalist concerned.
• Seizure of journalistic records for investigation against third parties has to go through judicial procedures, such as Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.
• Police must act against any third party seeking to act illegitimately against journalists.
• Police should not act against journalists intruding on private property during an incident unless asked to do so by the owner of that property.
• Complaints received by police should be recorded and reported to superiors who should periodically liaise with editors on the issues.
• Police wilfully and maliciously obstructing journalists should face disciplinary action.
4. Responsibilities of journalists towards police:
• Journalists must avoid obstructing police activity, such as disturbing evidence or hampering rescue activities.
• They must show press credentials when asked by police
• Journalists should be wary of privacy infringements
Steps for journalists in the event of problems:
• In the event of a confrontation over access, stay calm and indicate your willingness to reach agreement.
• Have names and numbers of lawyers and senior police handy, and call them.
• If need be, assert your constitutional rights.
• Keep a record of the interaction during the dispute.
• Find out the duration of the access restrictions so that you can return.
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