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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Memphis police detain TV photojournalist, delete his cell phone images



Memphis police briefly detained a photojournalist and erased images he had recorded on his cell phone on Sunday, Jan. 29, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Police are investigating the incident, the group added.

Casey Monroe, a photographer with ABC 24 News, had used his cell phone to film the arrest of a man who had gotten into an argument with an officer over a parking violation, ABC 24 reported.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to the Memphis Police Department calling the police's actions "reprehensible" as "behavior that chills free speech and unreasonably seizes property is extremely unprofessional, at worst it is criminal." The letter, written by Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the NPPA, went on to say that taking photos or videos in public is "protected by the First Amendment and may not be restricted by officers wishing to avoid the documentation of their actions. This is just the most recent incident in a rash of similar police abuses across the country."

The Ohio Newspaper Association also noted "increasing reports from around the country of police deleting content from citizens’ and journalists’ cell phones and cameras without warrants or probable cause," adding that this "activity by police likely is illegal."

Monroe's detention comes just as six more journalists were arrested covering the Occupy protests.

The November arrest of another reporter, Katelyn Ferral of the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., prompted the town of Chapel Hill to apologize to the journalist for the Chapel Hill Police Department’s actions, the Raleigh Telegram reported. Ferral, who was covering the SWAT team forcibly removing Occupy Chapel Hill protesters, was arrested, handcuffed, and forced to stay face-down on the pavement.



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