WASHINGTON - Sixteen major US news organisations came together Tuesday to accuse the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of curtailing freedom of the press by restricting the use of drones.
Unlike other countries, the United States prohibits the use of drones, or unmanned aerial systems (UAS), for commercial purposes, although the FAA grants rare exceptions for government and law enforcement use.
In a brief to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the news organisations - including The New York Times and The Washington Post - argued that drones are a First Amendment concern.
Through "a series of threats of administrative sanction," the FAA has "flatly banned" the use of drones for newsgathering purposes, according to the 25-page brief.
"The FAA's position is untenable as it rests on a fundamental misunderstanding about journalism," it added. "News gathering is not a 'business purpose.' It is a First Amendment right." The brief was filed in the context of the dismissal by an NTSB administrative judge in March of a $10,000 civil penalty that the FAA slapped on European drone entrepreneur Raphael Pirker for a promotional video he made in 2011 over the campus of the University of Virginia.