SEJ Objects to Illegal Military Police Treatment of Toledo Blade Journalists

April 16, 2014

The Society of Environmental Journalists has written Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, condemning "in the strongest terms" the treatment of two Toledo Blade journalists March 28, 2014 by military police outside a Lima, Ohio, tank plant. The journalists were on public property when they were detained by military police. Photographer Jetta Fraser's camera was confiscated, even though she was taking pictures of what was in plain public view.

In a letter sent April 9, 2014, signed by SEJ Executive Director Beth Parke and SEJ WatchDog Project Director Joseph A. Davis, SEJ urged Hagel to apologize to the Blade and direct military employees not to let such illegal actions happen again.

The SEJ letter stated: "SEJ members around the country have in recent years expressed concerns that heightened security patrols around a variety of industrial facilities have threatened the ability of journalists to photograph legitimate news subjects such as dangerous chemical facilities located near populated communities."

The legal and constitutional rights of photojournalists to take pictures from public places has been well-established in the U.S. courts.

Fraser and Blade reporter Tyrel Linkhorn were detained by Army military police for at least an hour outside the entry area of  a tank manufacturing plant in Lima, Ohio. Fraser was held in handcuffs, and military police threatened sexual violence against her. They were outside the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, operated under contract by General Dynamics.

The Toledo Blade promptly filed a lawsuit against the United States and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking for a jury trial, damages, and declaratory and injunctive relief.