U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

NYPD arrests photojournalist, charges him with disorderly conduct

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 11, 2020
New York, New York
Case number
Case Status
Type of case

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
New York Police Department
Unnecessary use of force?
Equipment Seized
Status of Seized Equipment
Returned in full
Search Warrant Obtained
September 8, 2023 - Update

Judge voids First Amendment settlement with NYPD

One day after formally approving a settlement between five photojournalists and the New York Police Department, a judge vacated the order on Sept. 8, 2023.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon wrote that she had received a letter from the Police Benevolent Association — the city’s largest police union — opposing the federal settlement. The settlement, announced Sept. 5, addressed violations of the journalists’ First Amendment rights while covering social justice protests in 2020.

In reversing her order, McMahon cited an earlier ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that police unions should be allowed to intervene in court cases involving NYPD policies.

McMahon gave the police union and the settling parties until the end of October to file motions opposing or supporting the settlement, and has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 6.

September 5, 2023 - Update

Journalists reach ‘historic’ settlement with NYPD in First Amendment suit

Five photojournalists reached a settlement with the New York Police Department in their federal lawsuit for violations of their First Amendment rights while covering social justice protests in 2020, the National Press Photographers Association announced on Sept. 5, 2023.

The NPPA, which filed the lawsuit with the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine in August 2021 on behalf of journalists Amr Alfiky, Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Mel D. Cole, Jae Donnelly and Adam Gray, called the agreement “historic,” and said it would provide new protections for journalists in New York, along with police training and policy changes. Alfiky was arrested by the NYPD in February 2020 and assaulted by an officer in May 2020, according to the lawsuit.

The wide-reaching settlement agreement [PDF] lays out extensive rules for the NYPD’s interactions with journalists and formally acknowledges that the press has a clearly established First Amendment right to record police activity in public places. Among other stipulations, it outlines that journalists credentialed by New York City may remain to report after a general public dispersal order has been made, and requires prior approval in some circumstances before a journalist can be arrested. The agreement also prohibits kettling, a technique used by law enforcement to round up and arrest large groups.

Policy changes, including annual training for NYPD officers and access for journalists to all public spaces, are also part of the agreement. The department must also designate a compliance officer for the settlement.

In a statement about the settlement, NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said he was pleased with the outcome and terms of the agreement. “Journalists are an essential part of a functioning, civil society and it’s essential that they be allowed to conduct their work free of harassment and assault, especially from state actors,” Osterreicher said.

August 5, 2021 - Update

Photojournalist sues NYPD for unlawful arrest

Photojournalist Amr Alfiky and four other photographers filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department on Aug. 5, 2021, in response to their unlawful arrests or assaults at the hands of police while documenting police activity in 2020.

Alfiky, who was a photo editor at ABC News and a contributor to Reuters and The New York Times at the time of his arrest, was taking video of a man being arrested on Feb. 11, 2020, in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood when police took him into custody. The disorderly conduct charge against him was dropped in May 2020.

On Aug. 5, the National Press Photographers Association and the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP filed a suit on behalf of the five photographers alleging that the NYPD had violated their First Amendment rights.

The five photojournalists named as plaintiffs are :

“The right of journalists to record the activities of police officers engaged in their official duties in public places is fundamental," attorney Robert D. Balin of Davis Wright Tremaine said in a statement emailed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. "Yet the NYPD has demonstrated a longstanding custom, pattern, and practice of unlawfully interfering with this First Amendment right and that pattern was revealed with dreadful clarity during the George Floyd protests.”

According to the complaint, reviewed by the Tracker, the photographers are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as an injunction directing the City of New York to effectively train officers on the right of the press and public to record police activity in public locations, cease arresting or using physical force against photographers and discipline the officers involved in such instances.

“There has been a longstanding failure on the part of the City to train, supervise, and discipline police who interfere with the media trying to do their jobs,” NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher said in a statement. “With this action, we're asking the court to finally call the NYPD to account for its unlawful practices.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

May 17, 2020 - Update

Charges dropped against photojournalist arrested in NYC

The New York Police Department dropped the charge of disorderly conduct against photojournalist Amr Alfiky on May 17, 2020, National Press Photographer Association General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Alfiky, who is a photo editor at ABC News and a contributor to Reuters and The New York Times, was taking video of a man being arrested on Feb. 11 in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood when police took him into custody.

Osterreicher said that before being dropped, the hearing date for Alfiky’s case was pushed multiple times in the spring and early summer because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The case was ultimately dismissed as a result of the New York Police Department’s “failure to timely file a legally satisfactory accusatory instrument with the court,” Osterreicher said.

February 11, 2020

Photojournalist Amr Alfiky was arrested while documenting an arrest in New York City, New York, on Feb. 11, 2020.

Alfiky, who is a photo editor at ABC News and a contributor to Reuters and The New York Times, was taking video of a man being arrested at about 7 p.m. in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood when police took him into custody, Alfiky’s friend Mostafa Bassim told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a video captured by Bassim, Alfiky can be heard repeatedly telling officers that he is a journalist as the officers push him toward the back of an SUV. As additional officers approach him, Alfiky can be heard offering to show them his press credentials and stating, “I did not refuse. I did not refuse.”

An NYPD spokesman alleged that Alfiky “refused to comply with repeated requests to step back,” and didn’t identify himself as a journalist until he was in police custody, the New York Daily News reported.

A police spokesman told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Alfiky was taken to Manhattan’s 7th precinct and held for several hours before being released. The spokesman also confirmed that Alfiky’s press credential, issued by the NYPD, was confiscated.

That evening on Twitter, Alfiky wrote, “I’m out and safe. Thank you all for your invaluable support!”

Alfiky declined to comment and instead directed the Tracker to his attorney, Mickey Osterreicher.

Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, told the Tracker that Alfiky was charged with disorderly conduct and issued a summons for March 31.

“I’m hoping to have [the charges] disposed of before then, either to have the summons voided or to have the charges dismissed,” Osterreicher said.

If convicted, Alfiky could face a fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in prison under state law.

Osterreicher told the Tracker that Alfiky’s press credential was returned to him on Feb. 14.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].