Free Speech, Rights Groups Call on AG Holder to Focus on Occupy Arrests

Free Press and other speech and digital rights groups have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to "focus attention" on the number of arrests of journalists, bystanders and others taking video of Occupy protests.

There were protests May 1, but the request, in a letter Thursday was actually timed to World Press Freedom Day (May 3).

There have been more than 70 arrests of people trying to cover/chronicle the protests since they started last September, according to one account.

"We the undersigned call on authorities at the local, state and federal level to stop their assault on people attempting to document protests and other events unfolding in public spaces. We must protect everyone's right to record," the groups said in the letter to Holder.

Signing on to the letter were the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Press Photographers Association, the New America Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders and Witness.

Justice has already weighed in in support of rights to record. Last January, according to Free Press, Justice urged a Maryland U.S. District Court to a "First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties" and to hold that "officers violate citizens' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize and destroy such recordings without warrant or due process."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.