Photographers association seeks repeal of Atlanta ordinance

AP News
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Posted: Oct 02, 2015 6:16 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — A national organization that represents news photographers on Friday asked Atlanta's mayor to repeal a city ordinance it says is being used to stop news photographers from taking photos on public sidewalks.

The National Press Photographers Association, joined by 11 news organizations including The Associated Press, sent a letter to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed saying it appears the ordinance is being applied too broadly and in a way that violates the constitutional right to free speech.

Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Atlanta police officers are being advised not to enforce the ordinance and that Reed's administration plans to introduce an ordinance on Monday to repeal it. She added that no one has been arrested or cited under this ordinance.

"I'm glad to hear they're being responsive," said Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the photographers association. Osterreicher said he regularly has to deal with instances of photographers being interfered with around the country.

"I think it's really important that people are able to protect their First Amendment right, both under freedom of expression and the freedom of the press," he said.

A police officer on Wednesday stopped a news photographer from shooting photos near the Fox Theatre in midtown Atlanta, the letter says. The officer told the photographer he was violating a city ordinance and that he would be arrested and his equipment confiscated if he didn't stop, the letter says.

The ordinance says "the taking of photographs on the streets in front of the place of business of another without the written consent of the other shall be deemed an offense ... if the photographs are taken for the purpose of sale."

The ordinance appears to be aimed at people who photograph people on the street and then sell the photos to them, the letter says. But it is being used to prevent journalists or anyone else with a camera from taking photos on a public street, which violates the First Amendment, the letter says.

Photographers around the country face increasing harassment by police officers "who, under color of law, cite privacy, safety and security concerns as a pretext to chill free speech and expression or to impede the ability to gather news," the letter says.

The organization says the ordinance is fundamentally flawed and asks that it be immediately repealed.

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This story has been corrected to show Osterreicher said "freedom of the press," not "freedom of the craft."