Photo by: Anthony Crider (Flickr / CC by 2.0)

Know your rights when covering protests

SPLC staunchly defends student journalists' right to cover protests in your communities. If you (or your students) will be reporting from the scene of a protest, make sure to read our full, updated guide to covering protests.

We include tips of how to prepare, like:
  • Identify an emergency contact
  • Turn off touch ID and facial recognition on your phone
  • Develop an emergency back up plan (where's the nearest hospital? who can you call for legal assistance if you're arrested, etc.)
You'll also find safety reminders for while you're at a protest, like:
  • Use the buddy system
  • Remember that you're a neutral observer
  • Practice situational awareness
  • Never escalate a situation
Also check out our guide how to communicate to police that you’re a journalist while covering a protest.

Since May 26, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has recorded more than 400 acts of aggression against journalists (including student journalists) by police and protesters. Even if you do everything right, there are still risks. That's why we include tips for what to do if you're arrested, attacked or have your equipment confiscated or damaged. 

Be safe and do good journalism!
See the guide

Have you been covering the protests?

SPLC is highlighting student coverage of protests all over the country. We want to add yours! Just email with the subject line "Protest coverage" and links to your stories.
See student coverage

SPLC's promise to support Black journalists and do our part to dismantle systemic racism

The following is a summary of a full statement that was issued by the SPLC Board of Directors on June 9, 2020.

The Student Press Law Center stands by the efforts of Black Lives Matter, the Movement for Black Lives and people throughout this country committed to dismantling systemic racism in all its forms.

As an organization focused on protecting, supporting and defending the First Amendment rights of student journalists, we not only condemn the structural barriers impeding Black students as they seek to report their truths and serve as journalists in their school communities and beyond, but we also strongly commit to doing our part to dismantle those barriers.

We recognize that we can and must do better as an organization. This is not a short-term issue and will require ongoing work on our part. Being a part of change means taking actionable steps, which is why we've outlined the steps we'll be taking in the next six months including:
  • Increasing the number of people of color on our Board of Directors;
  • Expanding outreach and partnerships with HBCUs and NABJ to support their journalism students and students interested in media law;
  • And seeking partnerships to research and document the ways in which structural racism prevents Black students from accessing journalism education, and proposing concrete actions for change.
For more details, we encourage you to read the full statement:
Read the statement

Survey: Evaluating student media needs

The coronavirus has upended norms and created new challenges for student media. We want to know what you're struggling with and how SPLC can help. Please take our short, 10-minute survey. Your feedback will help us better serve you in the upcoming months.
Take the survey

Q: Our publication has posted online photos of police brutality protests in our city, and we are receiving requests from politically active students to blur the faces of protesters who can be identified in the photos. Are we legally required to blur these photos or to refrain from publishing photos of protesters in the future when their faces are visible?

A: Legally, if the protesters were in a public place when you took these photos, they have a severely minimized expectation of privacy and you are within your rights to publish photos showing their faces. Just as they have the right to protest in public, you have the right to document their actions. 

There is some debate among journalists, however, over the ethics of showing faces of protestors. Although people who participate in protests and other public events do so knowing they are taking the risk of being identified, journalists should always be mindful of the duty to minimize harm. It is important to realize that there are legitimate concerns that some populations have when it comes to being identified in photos like these. Consider what your goal is in your coverage and what sorts of photos you will need to accomplish that goal. Do you need to use up close photos, or will a zoomed out shot accomplish what you are seeking?

It may be helpful to come up with a policy as a staff about how to document these kinds of protests and stick to that as you move forward. 

See previous Ask SPLC answers

Support SPLC

High school and college news organizations can show their support for SPLC's legal hotline and other core services by becoming a member. Your individual donations help us defend the rights of student journalists and their advisers across the country. 
Donate now
Copyright ©2020, All rights reserved. Student Press Law Center.

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