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Editorial: Press has right not to be harassed

Saturday, July 26, 2014
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If you go on the Internet, you can find dozens of photos of Mount McGregor prison in Wilton, taken from every angle imaginable, including inside cells.

If you use the Map/Satellite function on Google, you can zoom in to an overhead shot of the entire prison campus, complete with images of inmates playing basketball in the barbed-wire-enclosed courtyard.

The former medium-security prison, which a year ago held more than 450 inmates, is now completely empty due to a state cost-cutting move, save for the crews removing office furniture and sweeping the floors.

So when a corrections lieutenant on Thursday threatened Channel 13 reporter Mark Mulholland with arrest for filming a feature about Grant's Cottage with the prison in the background, it was not out of any security concerns. It was done because the officer felt he was entitled.

It's a problem that many members of the press and the general public face every day from people in authority who think they have carte blanche to order people around without due cause.

Reporters and news photographers are often unnecessarily harassed and kept from doing their jobs by police, firefighters and corrections officers. There certainly are legitimate reasons for officials at scenes to keep the public and the press at bay at times, such as for the individuals' own safety, the privacy of victims and security of the scene.

But many other times, their actions are not to ensure privacy or security, but for no other justification than because these individuals felt they had the authority and right to keep the public in the dark.

It's not only members of the media — for whom the general public generally have no sympathy — that are victims of this harassment.

Ordinary citizens have had their cellphones confiscated by police for videotaping arrests, crime scenes, demonstrations and police beatings, even when those citizens were standing behind the police tape or on public streets.

The reporter at the prison the other day wasn't breaking into prison grounds. He wasn't clambering up the mountainside for some secret footage to help an inmate escape. He was standing on a public road outside a state historic site doing a feature.

If the officer had politely asked him to direct his camera in another direction, the reporter might have complied. Mark Mulholland isn't a Hard Copy reporter. He's a reasonable, pleasant guy. In fact, after being approached by the officer, he offered to do just that.

Yet the officer felt justified in intimidating him, attempting to confiscate his video, and threatening to send him to jail, in violation of his First Amendment right to report the news.

The New York State Associated Press Association has condemned the reporter’s treatment and demanded an apology and investigation. That’s the least the state could do.

It's gotten out of hand. The press shouldn't stand for this. And neither should the public.

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July 26, 2014
10:15 a.m.
+0 votes
reader1 says...

How often has this happened within this reporting area?

I've seen reports of it elsewhere, but do not recall a local incident outside of this one.

July 26, 2014
10:42 a.m.
+0 votes

They are there reader1....think of any reporters that left the biz...reporters do not is in their blood....and when they are compromised...that is it...they are done and can not do their jobs. It is a sad fact.

July 26, 2014
11:30 a.m.
+0 votes
ChuckD says...

Oh please, Reader1, your wording, 'happened within this reporting area' sets you right up for the old game of Whack-a-Mole. The article is about law enforcement's rampant abuse of authority, not just interference of the media. You sound suspiciously overly defensive of it.

July 26, 2014
3:42 p.m.
+1 votes
reader1 says...

It was a reasonable question. While I am aware of incidents like these occurring elsewhere I do not recall any reports, certain non recently, of this type of behavior. The Gazette being a local paper, I was assuming that was the audience this commentary was directed to. In fact, they were reacting to a local incident, or more accurately - a local example of a national phenomenon.

ChuckD - You see things I don't. This article was clearly about interference with the media and civilian's right to film officers' behavior in public.

July 27, 2014
10:37 a.m.
+0 votes
joycemadre says...

Law enforcements abuse of their authority is not new!! However, its appears to be getting worse and totally out of control. Did they forget the oath they took? or perhaps never read it. It's disgusting!!

July 27, 2014
11:35 p.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

I don't know joicemadre. Were people born in the last 30 years not ever taught manners, responsibility, work ethics and common sense? Im with reader1 on this one, it's a fair question since the Gazette has made more innuendoes and false stories about the Schenectady Police than anyone. The Gazette lives to bash them but that didn't stop the police from taking down a dangerous felon in the lobby of the Gazette and risk the lives of multiple police officers. Two different groups here, one works with honor and dignity and the other one writes things.


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