Carlos Miller is a freelance journalist who has become local celebrity for his efforts to expose overzealous police departments who arrest journalists and photographers for merely doing their jobs. His crusade began in 2007 when he was arrested by City of Miami cops. After the incident he created a blog called Photography is Not a Crime (PINAC) to document his case and similar ones across the country. He’s not exactly a friend of mine but we are friendly. As luck would have it, I was in the courthouse for jury duty in 2008 when Miller’s case came to trial. I witnessed the tail end of that trial and wrote my impressions of it at the time. Miller was found guilty of one minor charge and the judge threw the book at him with the sentence. Later won his appeal.
Yesterday, Carlos Miller was in the courthouse again. This time defending himself on an obstruction of justice charge resulting from a December arrest by Miami-Dade Police. Miller was arrested while covering the eviction of “Occupy” protesters from the Government Center.
If you like courtroom drama and intrigue you should read more about Carlos’ latest case at his site. I won’t duplicate that effort here but I think it’s instructive to watch this video clip of Santiago Lavandera, Miller’s attorney, delivering his closing argument because as much as I respect the police in general we can’t fool ourselves into thinking that they aren’t human and that they are above reproach. Defending our first amendment rights is important.
In this country, when you’re a journalist, your job is to investigate. Not to be led by your hand where the police want you to see, so they can hide what they don’t want you to see. No, when you’re a journalist, a real journalist, it’s your job to go find the truth. As long as you are acting within the law as Mr. Miller was, you have the right to demand and say, ‘no, I’m not moving, I have the right to be here. This is a public sidewalk, I have the right to be here.’
He did his job. He has the right to do his job the way he sees fit. It’s not up to these prosecutors to tell anybody, much less an independent journalist, how to do their job. It’s not up to the police officers, it’s not up to a judge or the president. In this country, journalists do their job the way they see fit.
What’s he describing is Cuba. What he’s describing is a communist country. The government says you can’t be here because I say you can’t be here. And it’s infuriating to me that a prosecutor would try to get up here and try to convince you that just because a police officer says something, that he has to bow his head and walk away.
That is a disgrace to the Constitution of this country.
Lavandera is right. That is Cuba. Sadly, while independent journalists refuse to bow their heads in Cuba and are punished for it, the credentialed international media goes along to get along.