First Amendment rights crucial to student success
An arraignment has been re-filed against a student photographer at Pennsylvania State University for refusing police orders to leave the scene while on assignment.
Michael Felletter, a junior photography major, was charged with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct, second- and third-degree misdemeanors respectively. What may seem like simply an issue for Pennsylvania State’s The Daily Collegian is in reality an issue for news outlets everywhere.
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The freedom to express one’s opinion, whether right or wrong, loved or hated, is an essential right and a defining characteristic of any free society.
Felletter was doing his job – reporting on a riot occurring close to campus. The police, preoccupied with the riot and obviously not wanting Felletter to be hurt, had every right to ask him to leave the area. However, police have no right to accuse Felletter of ‘exciting’ the crowd, simply for being present and doing his job.
UH alumnus and former Daily Cougar photographer Adrees Latif won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for photography by documenting a Japanese journalist being attacked during the Myanmar riots in September 2007. Had Latif not photographed this event, the world may not have known what happened to this photographer, or how violent the protests truly became.
The riot in Pennsylvania may not have been particularly violent, but it was the news and what Felletter was assigned to cover. Charging him for being on assignment is threatening the freedom of the press and could be considered an attempt at censorship.
Censoring the media prevents the free flow of ideas through society. By limiting what a photographer is allowed to take images of establishes a barrier of censorship. Neither the police nor the government has the right to dictate what can and cannot be published in a free society. The charges against Felletter are against his and his campus’ First Amendment rights and should be dropped.