Last week, I took note of antiquated regulations governing street photography in the District — violations of which can result in arrest. While the rules are aimed at commercial street hustling and not at amateur snapshooters, the National Press Photographers Association has objected, saying the regulations risk infringing on shooters’ First Amendment rights.
In a letter to Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the association’s general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, notes that the regulations don’t “actually define the term ‘street photography,’ which has a more common definition as ‘a type of documentary photography’ practiced by such world renowned photographers/photojournalists as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt and Robert Frank to name a few.”
The language, Osterreicher writes, is otherwise “vague and overly broad” and “open to misinterpretation and abuse of discretion by police.” He asks that the regulations be repealed, or at least rewritten to make their application more narrow.
”Nationwide, photographers are increasingly subject to harassment by police officers, who, under color of law, cite safety and security concerns as a pretext to chill free speech and expression or to impede the ability to gather news,” Osterreicher writes, adding that D.C.’s regulations “will only further contribute to the erroneous belief by law enforcement that public photography may be arbitrarily limited or curtailed.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has more.