A group of police officers in Manhattan’s Chinatown arrested a photojournalist on February 12th, as he filmed the arrest of another man.
Amr Alfiky, whose photos have appeared in The New York Times, Reuters, and NPR, was recording an encounter between the police and a shirtless young man. In Alfiky’s video, later shared on Instagram, one of the officers motions for onlookers to leave, but the man yells, “Don’t go away. I have a bad heart and he’s kneeling my chest.”
According to the Gothamist, an NYPD spokesperson claimed that the police arrested Alfiky after he refused to comply with the officer’s orders, and because he did not initially identify himself as a journalist.
The right to record police in public does not depend on whether a person has press credentials, but rather applies to any bystander as long as the individual does not prevent the officer from carrying out his or her official duties. It is unclear then, why the NYPD spokesperson chose to highlight this fact in their statement to news organizations.
For more information on the right to record police, see our teacher guide: Recording Video and Audio of Police Officers
Regardless, a video taken by Alfiky’s friend contradicts the spokesperson’s claim that Alfiky did not identify himself as a member of the media.“I am a journalist! I am a journalist” the video shows Alfiky yelling. Later, when more officers arrived on the scene, Alfiky offered to show his press pass and insisted that he did not refuse their orders, “I did not refuse. I did not refuse.”
Under New York state law, Alfiky could face up to 15 days in jail if found guilty of disorderly conduct.
In response to the photojournalist’s arrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonprofit organization that defends the rights of journalists worldwide, urged the NYPD to drop all charges. “New York journalists should not have to worry about being arrested for doing their jobs,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna wrote on their site.