By: Allan Wolper
New York news media win pledge from mayor
Gabe Pressman, president of the New York Press Club, held aloft a draft lawsuit listing 57 of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s sins against the press, and claimed a First Amendment victory for the city’s journalists.
“We can declare victory in our long struggle to get the police to respect the rights of the press in the streets of New York,” Pressman shouted to cheering reporters at the Press Club’s annual dinner.
Pressman was referring to Giuliani’s soon-to-be-announced order asking police officers to stop confiscating press cards and allow reporters access to news and crime scenes.
“Reporters have more freedom in the Gaza Strip and Hebron than they do in New York City,” says Pressman, who recently returned from an assignment in the Middle East for WNBC-TV.
Sources say that the details of the agreement will be included in the paycheck envelopes of patrolmen and read aloud at the start of their eight-hour shifts.
Pressman hopes his victory speech convinces Giuliani and his police department to treat reporters with respect ? a pledge they broke after arresting a reporter for The New York Times in 1997.
Joseph Lelyveld, executive editor of the Times, sent a strongly worded protest to Police Commissioner Howard Safir and Giuliani after the reporter, Julia Campbell, was taken away in handcuffs.
Safir later dropped the charges and joined the Times in a statement that both sides said would lead to “good relations between the police and members of the press.”
The unfiled lawsuit Pressman waved at the cheering reporters last week was put together by a coalition that included The New York Times, the New York Daily News, The Associated Press, Long Island, N.Y.-based Newsday, and the New York Press Club.
The threat of a suit vanished after Daily News co-publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman met secretly with Giuliani and Safir
to negotiate a settlement with Giuliani.
The other members of the coalition reacted angrily to Zuckerman’s unauthorized meeting with the mayor and told the Daily News publisher they no longer supported a lawsuit.
Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment attorney who has been handling the recent negotiations with City Hall, tells E&P the agreement with the mayor will be finalized sometime next week.
“This kind of behavior from police is new in the history of New York,” says Abrams. “Police have never been so confining and repressive in their dealings with the press.”
When asked whether he thought that the agreement would end police harassment of the press in New York City, Abrams laughed and said: “Getting this done is like working out a settlement in Kosovo.”
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