The National Press Photographers Association prioritizes member safety year-round. During the Capitol Insurrection on January 6, the group used social media to not only share information and safety suggestions but also to communicate with journalists who were on the ground.
With its members often on the front lines of news events, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is serious about their safety and uses social media to share tips and information—often in real time. This was the case during the Capitol insurrection on January 6.
NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, Deputy General Counsel Alicia Calzada, and Safety Chair Chris Post monitored social media that day, tweeting out practical advice, safety suggestions, and help to those who wanted to tag or direct message the organization.
“Alicia and I were both monitoring Twitter, seeing what our members were posting, and [while] we were doing it remotely, we were really trying to be hands on,” Osterreicher said.
Calzada added, “We were figuratively on the ground last week.”
Part of NPPA’s work that day was providing helpful information to journalists, including how the citywide curfew that called for the arrest of anyone on the streets after 6 p.m. would affect them. “One of the things we did was examine the language of that curfew and make sure that it had an exception for journalists and other essential workers,” Calzada said. “We found the language and put it out there so people could have it handy if they needed it.”
Osterreicher and Calzada noted that, despite the high level of violence that day, journalists fared pretty well. NPPA only heard of two reporters temporarily detained by police, but none improperly arrested. During the protests last summer, photojournalists were arrested, detained, and had equipment confiscated. The East Coast-based Osterreicher said he had much later evenings during protests on the West Coast.
“I kid around that I became a few of our members’ mother’s best friend,” Osterreicher said. “We have a lot of young journalists that are just starting out and if they get arrested, they get one phone call, and usually that phone call is to their mother. They say, ‘Mom, call Alicia or Mickey,’ so I get a phone call in the middle of the night.”
While staying available for members during big news events is important, Osterreicher said NPPA advocates for members year-round. He travels the country training police departments about journalists’ rights and how to interact with journalists during mass events, like protests. He credits that with reducing improper arrests and detainment in cities where police have been trained, including DC.
After the Capitol riots, NPPA reminded photojournalists that most states prohibit subpoenaing unpublished photos and that there are some federal restrictions on what can be requested. The group also advised photojournalists to contact NPPA if they needed help with requests from law enforcement.
Another problem that emerged following the Capitol riots was social media companies inappropriately flagging photographer accounts as those promoting violence. “A number of our members were seeing that editorial images they had posted to Instagram were being taken down by Instagram, and then they were getting messages saying: ‘If you continue to do this, you’re going to be banned,’” Osterreicher said. Ultimately, NPPA was able to talk to Instagram to help resolve the issue for members.