By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Taking photos in a public place

The man at the center of an alleged bribery case in Methuen wants the Eagle-Tribune to be punished for photographing him as he was leaving a hearing.

It seems that Michael Neve had managed to persuade the Civil Service Commission that no one should be allowed to photograph him during or after a hearing at which he testified to having offered a $15,000 bribe to Mayor William Manzi. (Neve says Manzi refused the bribe; Manzi says no bribe was offered. The case actually involves someone else. Never mind.)

But Neves miscalculated in his definition of the word “after.” The newspaper, logically enough, decided “after” did not pertain to taking pictures of Neve after he’d left the building.

“The press can take photographs from a public place,” Eagle-Tribune lawyer and friend of Media Nation Robert Bertsche is quoted as saying.

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  1. ScarabusRedivivus

    In the days of the phone cam, the notion that an individual can insist or a commission mandate that in a public place no pictures be taken is laughable. Like it or not, pictures will be made. Better to work with a professional journalist than take one’s luck with the amateur paparazzi who love nothing better than to trust life’s most embarrassing moments over the internet.Examples? On the serious news side, Saddam Hussein’s execution was caught on a phone cam. On the creepy, revolting side I just read an article on Salon about what are called “up skirt” or “down blouse” photos of unsuspecting women. They are gathering a huge following of fetishists on the internet.It has become so bad in Japan that the nation has made laws requiring that phone cameras make a shutter-like noise when a picture is taken, so as to alert women so they can protect themselves.The times they are a-changing. Best to assume that in public space one will be guaranteed no privacy whatsoever.

  2. O-FISH-L

    SCOTUS long ago ruled on the plain view doctrine. If the police are lawfully there and they can see evidence, they can seize it. I would assume that news photographers would be granted the same rights in their trade, if not more.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: A basic principle of First Amendment law is that the news media have no special rights. The idea here is that anyone may take pictures of people in public places.Interesting invasion-of-privacy case some years ago involving a woman who was in a car crash. She sued because a TV news crew (1) shot her being rescued from a public road and (2) continued to shoot her on the medical helicopter, to which they’d been granted access as part of a project they were working on.The woman lost on #1 but won on #2, because, in the second instance, the media had been granted access not available to ordinary citizens.

  4. lovable liberal

    The irony – and miscarriage of justice – is that the SCJ ruled that citizen taping of a policeman is a wiretap crime and its result inadmissible in court to determine whether a traffic stop is valid.

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