U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

U.S. Capitol Police order journalists to delete photos, videos

Incident Details

Reuters/Aaron Bernstein

Journalists interview Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) before she enters the Senate chamber to vote on a health care bill, on July 25, 2017.

— Reuters/Aaron Bernstein
July 25, 2017

Andrew Desiderio, a Congressional reporter for The Daily Beast, was covering the arrest of protests in a Senate hallway on July 25, 2017, when he was reportedly ordered by a U.S. Capitol Police officer to delete a video that he had filmed.

Other journalists in attendance, such as Gabby Morongiello of the D.C. Examiner, reported that a Senate press gallery staffer told journalists not to take any photos or video of the protesters being arrested.

According to Jonathan Peters, the Columbia Journalism Review’s press freedom correspondent, journalists are generally prohibited from taking photos and videos in the Senate’s second and third-floor hallways — but that doesn’t give the U.S. Capitol Police the right to force journalists to delete photos and videos that have already been captured.

“Journalists have Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons and equipment, and they have rights under the Privacy Protection Act, a federal law that generally requires law enforcement officers to get a subpoena to search or seize a journalist’s documentary or work-product materials,” Peters writes. “That includes photos and videos. Police may not delete footage, photographs, or social media posts from a journalist’s device, nor can police force a journalist to do those things.”

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