By 2019, more than 81% of Americans owned a smartphone, as compared to 35% in 2011. This has given rise to “citizen journalists” who record and disseminate videos of police officers performing their duties in public. Does the First Amendment protect them, or can the state prohibit the recording of police activity?
“Not all documentation is reasonable,” Nicolas Riley, one of the plaintiff's attorneys, said, noting that most people could see why an 18-person camera crew might be disruptive. “The problem here was that the court had made it impossible to get down what happened during bail hearings.”
A newspaper’s recent attempt to report on air pollution caused by cattle feedlots was temporarily thwarted due to the state’s restrictions on drone usage.
“I am a journalist! I am a journalist” the video shows Alfiky yelling. Alfiky also offered to show his press pass and insisted that he did not refuse their orders.
A letter sent to Senate leadership on Tuesday said the restrctions "exceeded those put in place during the State of the Union, Inauguration Day, or even during the Clinton impeachment trial 20 years ago."
The ACLU of Massachusetts says that the law, which was originally written to protect citizens from government surveillance, is now used to punish people for exercising their First Amendment right to gather information about public officials.
The newest law is the state’s second attempt to stop journalists and activists from going undercover to report on meat processing plants, livestock facilities, and puppy mills. An older version of the bill was struck down as unconstitutional in January.
The civil liberties groups brought the case on behalf of five photojournalists who traveled to Mexico last year to document migrants' efforts to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition to lengthy interrogation, some of the journalists say border officers compelled them to disclose photographs and notes they had taken as part of their reporting.