• Jessie Lynn Photo

A Photojournalists Freedom

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791.

Freedom is something everyone has, strives to obtain and uses if the time arises. We as humans all have a right to freedom that includes speech, religion, assembly and opinions. That is why freedom is held as the most important right we all share and why it was deemed the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights, written in 1789, brought a definition to our freedoms as citizens in the United States in the form of ten amendments of rights. The definition of rights was created to limit the involvement and restrictions the government is able to have over its people. The First Amendment states that congress can not create laws against established religions, or prohibit free exercise, freedom of speech, of press, the right to peacefully assemble or petition the government. In my case, along with the freedom of speech granted I hold freedom of press equally as a collegiate photojournalism student.

Though, even with the First Amendment journalists and photojournalists do face some restrictions to their rights. Much of the restrictions are in regard to privacy and permissions. Private residences, Government buildings including jails and prisons as well as Military bases,  and private properties are all locations where a photojournalist must be granted permission to photograph at or in. Special circumstances to where journalists are allowed to photograph are Native American Tribal Lands, inside ambulances during an accident and on private property open to the public. Tribal lands are controlled and rightly restricted by Native Americans meaning these they will most likely require special permissions to photograph on. During an accident if a citizen is put into an ambulance and a photographer shoots into the ambulance the victims medical condition, caused by the accident, then becomes private and the photographs violate privacy. Private property that is open to the public does not require permission unless management requires it or there are clear signs posted. One specific location that has solid restrictions on photographers in federal courtrooms, not state. These rules do not impede on the First Amendment right but make a Photojournalist think before capturing an event or scene. 

On an ethical standpoint some industry standards and rules at times try and test a photojournalist. These rules or restrictions touch upon manipulation of imagery and falsifying information to gain interest and spark conflict. Many photographers feel the need for perfection in their images. They want what they capture to have the most impact for a story. This leads to sometimes missing the shot or feeling the need to "touch up" details of an image. When photographs are staged or manipulated they no longer hold the truth of the original scene or image. The National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics requires journalists to be accurate, integral, respectful and resist the urge to manipulate or stage images.  These are not laws but should be treated as laws do to the fact to being found guilty of going against the ethical code photojournalists can be stripped of their titles, lose their jobs and be caught in lawsuits. Ethical restrictions help photojournalists understand what is acceptable.

I find that these restrictions keep a photojournalist on their toes and honest. The moment of clarity to gain permission to photograph somewhere gives the photographer a second to think on if what they are trying to document is ethical according to their foundations. There are two main ethical foundations that make up the frame-work of journalism. Utilitarian, "the greatest good for the greatest number of people '', and the Absolutist, people have the right to privacy and there are fixed principles to follow of what should and shouldn't be shown. I've had a lot of time to think about where I stand and what foundation I lean towards. I've always believed that if it's worth talking about it's worth showing. As well, if an image has the power to change a future event or someone's mind then, it should be taken. Change is seen, especially in today's digital society. Therefore, I've placed myself in the Utilitarian foundation but, know very well some things should be kept private. Life is a fragile thing. It is true that humans are inherently faulted, but by any definition unique but that does not mean we need to exploit everything for the greatest good. Truth, Credibility and Integrity are what should drive all Photojournalists.


1. "The 1St Amendment Of The U.S. Constitution". National Constitution Center – The 1St Amendment Of The U.S. Constitution, 2020, https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment/amendment-i.

2. Kobre, Kenneth, and Betsy Brill. Photojournalism. 7th ed., Focal Press, 1991, pp. 398-463.

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