Police state in Syracuse

From Todd Gitlin:

From: Sree S.

Date: September 14, 2007 1:56:04 PM EDT

To: “J-School Faculty List”

Subject: [faculty] PRESS FREEDOM: A Syracuse journalism student responds to her security run-in

An incident our students should be aware of…

– – – – From SAJAforum, the newsy SAJA blog – new desi stuff daily:

[If you’d like to reprint Mariam’s essay or contact her, please e-mail saja[at]columbia[dot]edu – you can link to it, of course, without contacting us]

PRESS FREEDOM: A Student Journalist Responds to Her Security Run-in

On the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007, a SAJA student member named Mariam Jukaku found herself getting her a real-world lesson on the intersection of press freedom and national security. From the Syracuse Post-Standard story the next day:

A Syracuse University graduate student taking photographs outside

the VA Medical Center says she was questioned and ordered to delete several images by hospital security officers Thursday afternoon.

Mariam Jukaku, 24, of Michigan, said the officers also photocopied her university ID and driver’s license and asked if she was a U.S. citizen. She wonders if her appearance played a part in how the incident was handled.

Jukaku, a U.S. citizen of Indian descent, said she is Muslim and wears a head scarf.

“I got actually kind of annoyed. I felt that the question had no relevance,” she said of being asked about her citizenship. “That’s when I started wondering, ‘Maybe someone who didn’t look like me might be treated differently.’ “

Gordon Sclar, a medical center spokesman, said security officers were following hospital policy that restricts photographs on hospital property. He said Jukaku was between the sidewalk and the parking lot. She said she stayed on the sidewalk.

Her appearance was not an issue, Sclar said.

“There is a policy that requires if video or photographic equipment is being used on our property and we don’t know about it, (the operators) will be questioned,” Sclar said.

“It’s a government building and we’re living in challenging times,” he added.

But Sclar said photocopying her ID was not necessary and there is “zero tolerance” for discrimination.

“Removing the images that she shot was inappropriate, so we apologize,” Sclar said. <<<<

SAJAforum asked Jukaku to write about her experience and she sent us the thoughtful essay below. An excerpt:

“No one is asking security guards or law enforcement officials to be less vigilant when it comes to protecting the public. But intimidating a student snapping some photographs of the American flag does not protect the public and it certainly does not protect democracy.”

Please read the essay and post your comments. If you’d like to reproduce the essay, please e-mail saja[at]columbia[dot]edu and we will put you in touch with her (if you click on the photo above, you can get a hi-rez version).

A Lesson on the Intersection of Press Freedom and National Security

By Mariam Jukaku

See the full essay at

[ See more than 600 postings on dozens of topics at ]

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Todd Gitlin
Professor of Journalism and Sociology
Columbia University and Acting Chair
Ph. D. Program in Communications

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