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Freelancers and Citizen Journalist Bill of Rights

My name is Jonathan Tepper. Usually I blog about financial matters like photographer payments, but today I want write about the rights of photographers, freelance journalists and citizen journalists.

Yesterday evening I got a call from my father. He was in Madrid and decided to go shopping to Isla Azul, a shopping mall. As he entered the shopping mall, he saw dozens of police cars and ambulances taking people out of the area. Apparently it was an armed robbery that had gone wrong. My father took out his camera phone and took some pictures. Immediately a young policeman took away his camera, demanded he erase any photos, and threatened to take him to jail. My father complied, rather than get into a fight with a policeman.

As it turns out, professional photographers made it to the scene and took pictures. You can read about the incident here.

My question for the Demotix community is: why is it ok for journalists to take pictures but not freleancers? Why should freelancers and citizen journalists be abused by the police? We need to find a way to raise awareness of the rights of citizens to take photographs of news events. Surely freedoms of speech and press also protect the right to know and the right to report.

I'd love to know your thoughts. Have you had similar experiences?

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The following tips are based on commonly accepted editorial values adopted by most mainstream media.

Visual journalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand. As visual journalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.

On our Editorial ethics for photojournalists page we have put together a list commonly accepted editorial values adopted by most mainstream media.