Home / California Photojournalist Detained for Photographing Naval School From Public Street

California Photojournalist Detained for Photographing Naval School From Public Street

A photojournalist was illegally detained after he photographed the entrance to a naval school from a public street in California this week.

Nic Coury, who shoots for the Monterey County Weekly, said he was on assignment to photograph the Naval Postgraduate School when he was ordered inside the guardhouse and told it was a “national security issue” to photograph the school.

He wrote about the incident on Sports Shooter, which consists of mostly professional photojournalists who work for the mainstream media.

I was detained today while taking photos of a military school in town for a story we’re putting together on the school.

I was on public property the entire time—the city sidewalk—and the places I was photographing could be seen by any passer-by, etc. I was shooting photos of the main gate where cars and military personnel enter and exit the campus after they check in with a gate guard, who I think it an MP.

I was asked by the gate guard to follow him and was told to sit in the guard house while the guard called his supervisor and I asked why I was being held, to which his answer was, It’s “very illegal” to shoot photos of the school. It’s a national security issue.”

I explained my position of shooting from a very public place and asked if everyone who shot a photo of the school was detained and he said yes.

I was eventually let go after they determined I wasn’t a threat and my editor called they school’s PR folks whom we have been working with for a few weeks on the story and they confirmed who I said I was and what my press ID and driver’s license said I was.

All in all, it was like 30 minutes of my time.

I’m curious on the legality of their claims that it’s “very illegal” to photo a military base/school, even from a totally public place.

Some of the responding commenters gave him some good advice but one commenter advised him to call the school’s public affairs department days in advance next time he plans to shoot to avoid any such hassle.

It sounds like you need to work closer with the Public Affairs Office and let them know several days in advance, what day and time you will be there and where you will be. Then they can let the appropriate people know so when they ask you about what you’re doing they will know about it. Even better would be to meet with someone from the Public Affairs Office and have them as a guide even for areas you think are public property.

While that might seem like the polite thing to do, one should not have to go through such measures to take pictures from a public street.

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And this is exactly the problem I see with so many mainstream journalists; this insistence on avoiding confrontation even when confronted.

In fact, one of the commenters advised against notifying me of the incident because I tend to be confrontational.

Personally I would leave Carlos Miller out of this. Mickey would be a good call, but Carlos, despite never really being wrong, tends to be more confrontational and sensational for the sake of being confrontational and sensational sometimes, and I don’t think thats needed.

I’m not bothered by that comment because he acknowledged that I do get it right, but how confrontational can I get over this story when I’m all the way in Miami?

The unfortunate fact is that the Monterey County Weekly will never report on this incident in order to not be confrontational.

And that’s exactly why these authority figures believe they can keep getting away with this unlawful behavior.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.