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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Journalist ends up in handcuffs after photographing arrest in New York



A freelance photographer for The New York Times found himself under arrest on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 4, after shooting the arrest of a teenager in the Bronx.

According to New York magazine, photojournalist Robert Stolarik was taking pictures of a street fight when he started photographing a teenage girl being arrested. When police told Stolarik to stop taking pictures, he showed his press credentials and continued photographing the scene. Later, a second police officer “slammed” the journalist's camera into his face, reported the Guardian. Stolarik told the Times that when he asked for the officers’ badge numbers, they took his cameras and dragged him to the floor, where he alleged the officers kicked him in the back and resulted in “scrapes and bruises” to his arms.

Police responded that Stolarik ignored officers’ orders to move back when his camera “inadvertently” hit an officer in the face. Stolarik then allegedly “violently resisted being handcuffed,” the Times said. Police charged and arrested Stolarik with obstructing government administration and resisting arrest, according to the Huffington Post.

The National Press Photographers Association’s (NPPA in English) General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher wrote a letter to the New York Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, objecting to the photojournalist's arrest. Osterreicher noted that the department’s Commissioner Kelly issued a statement “to remind members of the service of their obligations to cooperate with media representatives acting in a news-gathering capacity at the scene of police incidents.” The NPPA demanded the immediate return of Stolarik’s cameras and press credentials, and called for an investigation into police conduct.

Deputy Director Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists said the arrest “raises questions about police tactics of blocking reporters covering street unrest and protests," and echoed the NPPA’s call for an investigation.

Stolarik’s arrest is the most recent in a series of conflicts between police and reporters across the United States. Tensions between journalists and the NYPD flared in the fall of 2011 when police impeded reporters, including Stolarik, from covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. The NPPA also complained about the detention of a television photojournalist in Memphis, Tennessee, who used his cell phone to record an arrest, and a citizen in Baltimore, Maryland, who was threatened with arrest for videotaping police conducting an arrest.

In a letter to the Baltimore Police Commissioner, the NPPA noted that photography "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."



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