NEW YORK – Restrictions placed on journalists didn't prevent them from covering the clearing of the Occupy Wall Street encampment last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued Friday, weeks after media organizations sent letters to the city complaining that police blocked journalists from observing the operation.
"The press made a big deal that they were denied their rights," the mayor said in his weekly WOR Radio appearance. "You don't have a right as a press person, I don't think, to stand in the way just in the interest of you getting a story."
"We didn't keep anybody from reporting," he continued. "They just had to stand to the side while the police did their job."
Last month, a coalition of media outlets including The Associated Press sent letters to city officials protesting their treatment. The letters said police used force and arrested some journalists as they tried to do their jobs.
Another coalition made up of media groups said police forced reporters and photographers so far from the encampment that they couldn't observe what happened. A number of reporters were arrested along with the protesters there and at other sites later in the day. Among those arrested were a reporter and a photographer with the AP, whose arrests were voided after a few hours in custody.
A few days after the letter was sent, the New York Police Department's commissioner ordered officers not to unreasonably interfere with media access during news coverage and warned that officers who ignored the order could be disciplined. He reminded officers that journalists are entitled to cross police and fire lines, unless it is unsafe or a live crime scene.
Several local officials objected to the treatment of journalists, and this week U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler called on the federal Department of Justice to investigate allegations of police misconduct in connection with the treatment of protesters and journalists during the Nov. 15 eviction of Occupy protesters from the park.
Bloomberg called Nadler's request "ridiculous" and said New York police action is not a federal issue.
"We did the right thing. We did it as respectfully as we can when you handle a big crowd," Bloomberg said Friday. "In the middle of any police action, you just can't let another group get in and get in the way of doing something."
Samantha Gross can be reached at www.twitter.com/samanthagross