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Good Question: Where Are Journalists Allowed To Go?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Following the resignation of the president of University of Missouri Monday, protestors at the school tried to physically block the press from covering their demonstrations. They say they want to create a "safe space" in the middle of an outside public area on campus.

It's led to a national discussion about First Amendment rights. So, where are journalists allowed to go? Good Question.

"That's a great question and the answer is – it depends," said Jane Kirtley, a professor of law and journalism at the University of Minnesota.

Private places can make their own rules about the press. For example, if the demonstrations had happened at a private university, rather than a public one, the press accessibility would be different.

"Then it's all bets are off," said Kirtley. "It's very different at private schools, private schools are not subject to the First amendment or any constitutional regulations."

In public places, though, the press does have a constitutional right to be allowed wherever the public is allowed.

"Journalists are treated just like anybody else," said Kirtley. "You are dependent upon the tradition of the practices of the community about whether there's going to be any effective special rights of access."

But, not all public spaces are considered public forum property, where people gather for expressive activity. Kirtley said the public areas at the University of Missouri would be considered public forum property and protestors should have no expectation of privacy.

There are special cases like elementary schools or crime scenes where public officials can restrict access to the public and the press.

"If they wouldn't allow the general public to cross that line, they don't have to allow the press to cross that line," said Kirtley.

There are also some states with laws where pictures are not allowed in places where people have an expectation of privacy, like bathrooms or locker rooms.

"In the U.S., the general rule is what you can see from a public sidewalk, public street, a park, you may photograph, you may videotape," Kirtley said.


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