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Statement in support of Pedro Rivera from the Professional Society of Drone Journalists

February 24, 2014

On February 1, a photojournalist named Pedro Rivera arrived on the scene of a fatal car accident in Hartford Connecticut, and deployed a small drone to record police activities.

This was not the first time Rivera used a small unmanned aircraft system  to obtain aerial photos of police scene. It was, however, the first time that police questioned Rivera, and demanded that he stop recording images with his drone. Then, according to Rivera’s lawsuit against Hartford police, a law enforcement official called Rivera’s employer, and made statements that led to the photojournalist being suspended without pay for a week.

According to photos Rivera has released, and his statement to the Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ), his small unmanned aircraft was behind police lines, hovering over public land, and recording events happening in plain view.

Other photographers who arrived documented the scene with telephoto lenses, which were much more intrusive than Rivera’s drone. Yet those journalists were never questioned, let alone expelled from the scene, pursued and suspended. The actions of the Hartford police in this incident were uncalled for, and are an affront to press freedom.

Both the Supreme Court  (in Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia) and the Seventh Circuit Court (in ACLU of Illinois v. Alvarez) have recognized the First Amendment grants the public the right to record public events. Preventing journalists from monitoring police activity in public is a violation of that amendment, regardless of what tool the journalist uses.

The PSDJ supports Pedro Rivera, who is a member of the PSDJ, in his lawsuit against Hartford police and calls for law enforcement to desist from impinging on the First Amendment rights of journalists and citizens everywhere.




Matthew Schroyer,
Founder and President

Ian Hannah,
Vice President

Ryan Hamlet,
Board of Directors

Caleb Scott,
Board of Directors

Parker Gyokeres,

Founded in 2011, The international not-for-profit Professional Society of Drone Journalists is dedicated to fostering the development and safe operation of unmanned vehicles for journalistic purposes; advocating freedom of responsible and ethical use of unmanned vehicles by journalists; and furthering the adoption of unmanned vehicles by the press through education, outreach, and promotion. The PSDJ currently has more than 150 members from more than 20 countries.

Matthew Schroyer is a drone and data journalist based in Urbana, Illinois... read more

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