Big Apple blogger battles City Hall, NYPD to renew press pass
New York journalist Rafael Martinez-Alequin and his lawyer Norm Siegel are challenging the New York City police department's policies for issuing press credentials. (For somewhat arcane reasons having to do with access to crime scenes, the NYPD issues all City media credentials.)
Siegel and his client made their case at a press conference at One Police Plaza in Manhattan on Oct. 31. See video, embedded below.
Martinez-Alequin had been a credentialed member of New York's working press since the early '90s. The Bronx-based reporter published the New York City Free Press on newsprint until the end of 2005, and shifted the publication online in 2006. He also started blogging at Your Free Press.
In 2006, the department downgraded Martinez-Alequin's status from "working press" to "press identification pass"--without explanation. At the time, the journalist didn't realize there was any difference. He kept on doing what he'd always been doing.
In 2007, he jumped through the familiar hoops to get his pass renewed, but his application was denied. The Department sent Martinez-Alequin a form letter stating, amongst other things, that he had failed to demonstrate the need to report spot news. Of course, he was still doing the same job he'd always done, for which he'd always been granted working press passes in the past.
Martinez-Alequin's journalism didn't change when he shifted from paper to pixels, or when he branched out into blogging. He continued to report news, attend press conferences at City Hall, and ask Mayor Bloomberg pointed questions about how his policies affected minorities and poor people.
They don't have proof, but Martinez-Alequin and his lawyer speculate that the exasperated mayor may had something to do with the NYPD's precipitous and inexplicable decision.
Siegel and his client are prepared to challenge the constitutionality of the City's whole press credentialing policy. The NYPD may be discriminating against reporters for web-based publications. Or, it may be singling out Martinez-Alequin for some other reason. Either way, the reporter and his lawyer say they're prepared to go to court if the pass isn't reinstated.
The outcome of the Martinez-Alequin case could have important implications for anyone who reports for a blog or web-based publication.