Protection of the photojournalist: It’s good to know the law

By Kaitlin Dunn

The first session I went to provided me with a healthy dose of reality. Living inside the “Elon bubble,” I’ve never had to worry about anyone seizing my camera, or arresting me for filming something, but a lot of student journalists have had to deal with situations like this. Luckily, as I learned, there are a plethora of laws that protect journalists, including student journalists from having film or photographs taken by the police.

I always knew about the public space rule. If you’re in a public space, you have the right to photograph or film anything that happens around you, but it’s not just government owned spaces. If you have the right to be in a place, like a hotel lobby, the same rule applied.

The way Frank LoMonte, the speaker running the session put it, “If you wouldn’t take your pants off there, then you’re not violating anyone’s privacy.”

Another great law states that in order for the police to seize a journalist’s unpublished photos or footage, they need more than a warrant. They have to hold a hearing in which the journalist can plead his or her case in front of the judge.

My favorite part of the presentation was when LoMonte gave tips on what to do if you’re actually arrested: Know the make and model of your camera and what you have on it, memorize key phone numbers or write them on your arm, and carry quarters with you in case you have to use a pay phone. I hope and pray that I never get arrested for anything, but on the off chance I do, I feel like these are good tips to know in that situation.

Overall, I found this session to be interesting and highly informative.  It’s good to know there are plenty of laws protecting me as a photojournalist and how I can defend myself if I ever get myself in confrontation with law officials.


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