Carlos Miller, who has been perhaps the most important chronicler and advocate for filming and photographing police, was arrested (for the
second third time) in Miami for not being sufficiently obsequious to the cops. And for the second time, he beat the rap.
The prosecutor’s summation in the case offers a valuable insight into the problem.
The most telling part of my trial yesterday, besides the continuous lies under oath by Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez, was when a frattish looking prosecutor fresh out of law school named Ari Pregen tried to explain to jurors how a “real journalist” was supposed to act.
A real journalist, he explained, was supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk.
No doubt Assistant State Attorney Ari Pregan, 2010 St. Thomas Law grad admitted to practice in Florida on November 30, 2011, is sufficiently brilliant to opine on how real journalists are supposed to behave. And he made his argument plain: Real journalists do what they’re told.
Fortunately, Carlos’ lawyer, Santiago Lavandera, offered a different perspective on how “real” journalists behave:
The jury preferred this version of real journalist behavior. Sometimes, they get it right. But ironically, if we’re to judge by what “scholars” have to say on the subject, Lavandera got it wrong and Pregan got it right.
“In this country, when you’re a journalist, your job is to investigate.
Not to be led by your hand where the police want you to see, so they can hide what they don’t want you to see.
No, when you’re a journalist, a real journalist, it’s your job to go find the truth. As long as you are acting within the law as Mr. Miller was, you have the right to demand and say, ‘no, I’m not moving, I have the right to be here. This is a public sidewalk, I have the right to be here.’
He did his job. He has the right to do his job the way he sees fit. It’s not up to these prosecutors to tell anybody, much less an independent journalist, how to do their job. It’s not up to the police officers, it’s not up to a judge or the president.
In this country, journalists do their job the way they see fit.
What’s he describing is Cuba. What he’s describing is a communist country. The government says you can’t be here because I say you can’t be here.
And it’s infuriating to me that a prosecutor would try to get up here and try to convince you that just because a police officer says something, that he has to bow his head and walk away.
That is a disgrace to the Constitution of this country.”
Alex Myers was a journalism student at SUNY Oswego, He learned the hard way.
The student at the center of the latest storm is Alex Myers, an exchange student from Australia who worked as an intern in SUNY Oswego’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA). Myers was also enrolled in an advanced-level course in SUNY Oswego’s journalism department. For one of his class assignments, Myers was given the task of writing a feature on a public figure. Myers chose SUNY Oswego men’s hockey coach Ed Gosek,
In an email to Cornell University hockey coach Michael Schafer, soliciting comment about Gosek, he included the line, “Be as forthcoming as you like, what you say about Mr Gosek does not have to be positive.” Schafer responded that this line was “offensive,” and so the nightmare began.
Why, you wonder? Because the solicitation of an honest response, even if not positive, is not something real journalists do.
The next evening, Myers received a hand-delivered letter from SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley, informing him that he was being placed on interim suspension, effective at 6:00 p.m. October 19, and that he would have to vacate his dorm room by that time. The letter also banned him from all campus facilities and informed him that he may be subject to arrest if he came on campus.
Among the behaviors that merit this charge are “harassment,” “intimidation,” “threats,” “conduct which inhibits the peace or safety of members of the College community,” and “retaliation, harassment or coercion.” The charges further stated that:When no one was looking, honest became a a horrible crime in academia, and this is what is being taught to real journalists. No wonder Ari Pregan’s understanding of how real journalists behave was so, well, constrained. He’s fresh off the campus himself, and has a far better sense of the cultural phenomenon pervading academia criminalizing negativity, whether in the form of speech codes or anti-bullying laws.
Specifically: Campus network resources may not be used to defame, harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual or group.
Say anything less than fuzzy to a recent grad and they will cry and lash out. This includes journalism students and law students as well. And don’t even ask about their professors, who can’t a discouraging word.
Carlos was fortunate that his jury preferred the idea of a real journalist being someone who challenged the authority of government. Whether he would be acquitted with a jury ten years from now, when all our delicate teacups educated to believe that anyone who doesn’t abide authority or has the audacity to utter a negative word, is another matter.
Update: In sharp contrast the prevailing disdain of academics toward free speech, Howard Wasserman has an outstanding post at Concurring Opinions reflecting at least one scholar’s view that free speech still matters. Well done.