Radio & Television News Association

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sheriff's Office Responds to RTNA Complaints

RTNA Files Complaint Regarding Media Access:
Many journalists have contacted the RTNA regarding their being denied access to the Urban Garden Eviction, thereby restricting coverage. Apparently, members of the media were not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk and cover the story.

RTNA's legal counsel, Royal Oakes, contacted the LA Sheriff's office in response to the complaints and expressed our concern that our First Amendment rights had been violated. Sheriff Lee Baca took the time to respond personally to Royal's letter.

The Sheriff's viewpoint:
The Sheriff's view is that the sidewalk -- which we argued should have been open to the press and the public, such that reporters should not have been pushed off of it and across the railroad tracks -- was actually used as a temporary holding area for prisoners, as the area had been designated a crime scene. I think it's good we got a personal reply from the Sheriff -- it indicates our complaint was taken seriously; he invites us to contact him directly if we want, or go through Chief Martinez, to follow up on this.

Below is an excerpt from the letter from the Sheriff's office:
"We empathize with your concern for full access of the media. Nevertheless, such access must be balanced against the Department's need to secure a crime scene. the area described in your letter was temporarily declared a crime scene when, during the execution of an eviction, people on the land refused to comply with the court's order to vacate which was considered a criminal act in violation of Penal Code 166. The sidewalk in question was utilized as a temporary holding area for prisoners and access was restricted to law enforcement personnel providing security. the area was adjacent to an access point leading onto the private property in question and the restriction was not lifted until the prisoners were removed from the area."

Please Comment:
If you'd like to comment on it you can do so on this blog, or contact the RTNA directly. We're always interested in hearing your comments and concerns.

Media access is an ongoing concern of the RTNA, and we've been getting a lot more complaints and evidence of access being restricted lately. If you've ever had your access restricted, please let us know right away and we'll look into it. The more evidence you can provide, the better.
You can contact the RTNA at: 562-987-4545.


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