No First Amendment Rights for Bloggers?

( Online Petition to protect NYC Bloggers’ First Amendment Rights)

Many of you may have already read the New York Times article and blog reports that three New York City journalist/bloggers, Rafael Martinez-Alequin, Ralph E. Smith, and David Wallis have recently been denied press credentials by city officials.

The issues that affect these three major players in the New York City blogging world affect us here at Sheepshead Bites, too. Many times, it has occurred that we have been unable to get information about breaking events or even general facts about things happening in Sheepshead Bay, because we lacked the hard-to-get NYPD press credentials.

Read more and sign the petition to protect First Amendment rights after the jump.

When we tried to get some information about what seemed to be a suspicious gas leak, we were told that we were not “press”. When there was police activity and possible robberies at two of our local banks, we couldn’t get any additional information to report to you. There were other such incidents where we were denied basic information – that even as average citizens we have a right to know.

Does every local resident who smells gas permeating the air need to be approved as a member of the press to know if there is about to be an explosion? And if we do need press credentials to get this information, but officials have blocked local bloggers out, then where should residents in NYC neighborhoods get their information?

Local bloggers, like any other journalists, report news and deserve access to media information gathering sources and meetings. This is the premise of a widely-implicating lawsuit brought on behalf of the three NYC bloggers by former director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel.

It is with the improvement of our neighborhoods that we ask you to support the plaintiffs in this case by signing the online petition being circulated by and to urge city officials to recognize that bloggers are allies in getting useful information out to the concerned public.

Sign the petition and prove that Sheepshead Bay is an active community – send city officials the message that we, in the outer boroughs, do not wish to be disenfranchised. New York City is the media capital of the world and officials would do well in offering a major overhaul of the way news information can be accessed by those willing to disseminate the information responsibly – maybe even offering a welcome to bloggers in the form of free educational, events for modern media professionals and hobbyists alike.

Let’s hope that this lawsuit sends the city a real message to not silence the messengers – in this case, the instant messengers.

Sign the petition: