Detained: What Journalists Need to Know During Arrest and Detainment
It was March 6 when news spread throughout the Florida journalism community that one of their own had been arrested: Cody Weddle, a freelance reporter for Local 10, was ambushed in his apartment in Caracas, Venezuela and detained by the government.
Thankfully, he was released 10 hours later unharmed, but it made many of us ask the question: What do you do if you’re detained? What if one of your staffers is arrested? Who do you call? What if you’re a freelancer?
SPJ Florida and the National Press Photographers Association Southeast Region are proud to partner on an educational webinar to address these very issues.
“Many of us started telling stories about being threatened with arrest, but not all of us knew what we would do should it actually happen,” said Christiana Lilly, president of SPJ Florida. “It’s an unfortunate reality that press freedom is infringed upon, and we want to work to help educate newsrooms and reporters.”
The chapters will be hosting the free webinar on April 24 at 7 p.m. with a distinguished panel of journalists and law experts, including Weddle himself. With photographers and videographers having to be in the thick of things, and visible with their gear, they’re often at risk for arrest. This will be discussed as well during the webinar, thanks to the partnership with the NPPA.
Zak Bennett, the associate regional chair of the NPPA Southeast United States, was held by Homeland Security in February for questioning and agents demanded to see his videos and pictures. They then came to his home for more questions.
“Journalists have been called the enemy of the people, purveyors of fake news; and working within a failing institution. In addition, journalists are denounced at rallies and trolled online,” Bennett said. “That being said, knowing our rights is essential for every journalist. Hopefully the day never comes when you need to know your rights, but when it does come you will be thankful that you know them.”
“While leaders and different groups may try to discourage us from doing our jobs, knowing our rights will empower us and make us feel more comfortable in carrying out our daily duties as journalists.”
Meet the Panel:
Cody Weddle was living and working in Venezuela for nearly five years until his detainment and expulsion from the country in March. He has covered the unprecedented political and economic crises as a freelance journalist for dozens of outlets including WPLG, ABC Miami; ABC News; NBC News, the Daily Telegraph; the CBC; the BBC; and the Miami Herald. He has covered the crisis from different cities around the country and from inside the poor barrios most affected by the ongoing economic collapse. Wedddle reported extensively from the front lines of the massive anti-government protests of 2017 and 2019. On March 6, agents of Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence raided his apartment, detained him for much of the day at their headquarters, and later forced him to leave the country. Based on their questioning, Weddle believes the agents were looking for his sources for a recent piece regarding general discontent within the rank-and-file of the country’s security forces. He is currently located in neighboring Colombia, where he plans to continue his coverage of Venezuela.
A staff attorney with the Reporters Committee for Press Freedom, she focuses on supporting First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund and assisting with the committee’s amicus and litigation practices. Before joining the Reporters Committee, Matthews was associate principal counsel at The Walt Disney Company. Prior to that, she was a litigation associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, where she focused on First Amendment, media law, and entertainment cases and represented the Reporters Committee pro bono. Matthews earned her J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was an editor and contributing writer for the Journal of Law & Liberty. During her undergrad at Brown University, she interned as a reporter at Newsweek and served as communications director for a national education nonprofit.
Nick Swyter joined Knight Foundation as a journalism program associate in January 2018. He previously worked at Knight as an intern. Before re-joining Knight, Swyter was an associate editor at Cuba Trade, a Miami-based magazine with a focus on the Cuban economy. He was also a producer and assignment desk editor at KOLD/KMSB in Tucson, Ariz. As a student at the University of Miami, he interned at the Miami Herald and Metro TV News in Jakarta, Indonesia. He was also a student fellow for the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting initiative and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Serving as general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, Osterreicher is experienced in contract, media, copyright and First Amendment Law. He has been actively involved in matters such as cameras in the courtroom, the federal shield law, media access, public photography, use of drones for newsgathering and copyright infringement. Osterreicher was involved with the drafting of the Fair Trial/Free Press and Cameras in the Courtroom section of the New York State Bar Association Journalists’ Handbook. Additionally, he has been an adjunct lecturer in Photojournalism at the State University of New York at Buffalo and an adjunct law professor in media and the law at the SUNY Buffalo Law School. Osterreicher is an award-winning photojournalist with more than 40 years of experience, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek and USA Today as well as on ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, ESPN and more. He also writes regularly for the Media Law Resource Center and the NPPA’s magazine
Moderator: Suzette Speaks
Speaks is on the board of directors of SPJ Florida and has moderated other panels for the chapter. A television and multimedia host based in Miami, Florida. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, she enjoyed a successful career as an attorney before she felt called to follow her passion for journalism and communications. Suzette is a freelancer on multiple platforms and has worked with Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and Caribbean National Weekly. She has also served as president of the South Florida Black Journalists Association, an affiliated chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).