Image US Capital, West Side. Captured by Martin Falbisoner used under CC BY-SA 3.0
It’s been revealed the United States Senate will be cracking down on the press corps for the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President, Donald J. Trump, severely limiting photojournalists ability to document the monumental moment.
Later today, when House leaders hand off the articles of impeachment to the Senate, still photographers won’t be allowed to document the monumental moment, an unprecedented move that’s raising concerns over credentialed reporters’ and photographers’ ability to exercise their First Amendment right to the freedom of the press.
According to a report from Roll Call, Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael C. Stenger are putting in place restrictions that will allow just a single video camera to be present in the room. No still photographers will be allowed to press the shutter and no audio recordings will be allowed.
NO STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS allowed to document the transfer of the articles to the Senate?!?!?
I stand with the Standing Committee of Correspondents & scores of colleagues who cover the Capitol daily in condemning this outrageous breach of press freedom. https://t.co/lF4B0fJKUg
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 14, 2020
Even after today, the remainder of the trial will see only a single press pen set up on the second floor of the Senate, where legislators will enter and exit the chambers. Reporters and photographers won’t be able to move outside the pen, except for before and after the processions when they’re escorted by proper authorities.
Following news of these restrictions, The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a five-member panel of journalists representing the credentialed press in Congress, fired back saying the restrictions ‘fail to acknowledge what currently works on Capitol Hill, or the way the American public expects to be able to follow a vital news event about their government in the digital age.’
Roll Call reports the ‘planned restrictions […] rejected every suggestion made by the correspondents,’ regarding press access during the trial and The Standing Committee of Correspondents has rejected the claim these planned restrictions are being put in place to protect the lawmakers, saying Capital Police have implemented these rules ‘without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial’
Other individuals chimed in on the matter, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a U.S. Representative for the NY-14 district, who shared the following tweet:
There is no good reason that credentialed press should be blocked from thoroughly covering the impeachment trial & documenting it for the public.
We must honor the freedom of the press. To not allow photography of the transfer – along w/ many other limitations – is unacceptable. https://t.co/VuWq1b7PDb
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 15, 2020
Photographer and teacher David Hobby also shared his thoughts on the matter, saying:
If you’re trying to erase a moment from history, job one is to ensure no still cameras are there to record it. https://t.co/FB8qWscx8i
— David Hobby (@strobist) January 15, 2020
Unfortunately, these restrictions likely mean photographer David Burnett won’t be able to use his now-iconic 4 x 5 film camera to capture the transfer of articles for the third impeachment in U.S. history.