By now, you have most likely heard about or seen the Time photographer who was chokeslammed by the Secret Service agent at the Donald Trump rally at Radford University on Monday.
Time Photographer Chris Morris allegedly stepped 18 inches outside of the press barrier to take photos of the protestors who were interrupting the rally. What allegedly happened was that the agent then told him to step back, Morris said “F*ck you,” and the agent then chokeslammed him to the ground. Morris instinctively kicked him in the chest to get the agent off and was then dragged out of the venue by security guards and police. All of this happened while the crowd cheered and yelled at him.
Who is at fault here is not necessarily the issue. Both of the parties involved clearly broke some rules.
The issue that I want to address is that there are press restrictions that are in place during some political rallies recently, specifically ones for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, that go against the First Amendment.
According to Michael Calderone, senior media reporter at The Huffington Post, Donald Trump has been “keeping [credentialed journalists] in a press pen … even apparently after the event ended … and requiring them to have an escort when going to the bathroom.”
The reason they do this is because many presidential campaigns have become tightly scripted ventures. Advisors do not want people to get the wrong impression of the candidates, which is much more likely to happen behind the scenes rather than behind a podium.
According to a press release by the National Photographer’s Association, President Melissa Lyttle said, “If indeed all Mr. Morris was attempting to do was step out of the press pen to photograph a newsworthy event happening at the rear of the room, the agent clearly overreacted.”
The job of a news photographer is to record events truly as they appear and report them honestly to the public. I just don’t understand how that is possible when they are held in a completely separate area, unable to react with and experience the event the same way as regular attendees.
Though what I can understand is that there may be some concerns with privacy and safety as far as letting journalists go behind the scenes at an event that large. Though ideally, press should be able to have at least a bit more access than civilians. Because, of course, they are sharing what most people may not get the ability to see.
Restricting their rights is backwards and, in my opinion, an attack on the press – an attack on our constitutional rights and the First Amendment.