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Taking photos lands Indian-origin student in trouble

By The Rediff News Bureau
September 13, 2007 18:27 IST
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A Syracuse University graduate student of Indian origin has gotten into trouble for taking pictures outside the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

A Post-Standard report on the incident says when Mariam Jukaku was taking photographs as a practical application of techniques she recently learnt in photography class.

From the sidewalk outside the hospital, she snapped pictures of the flags and signs outside the center, and of passers-by entering and exiting the facility, for about ten minutes.

As she walked away, an officer from the center's security force ordered Jukaku to give her the camera. Another officer joined them. Jukaku was then taken to the security office and questioned.

Security staff examined the images, deleted some of them, and photocopied her university ID and driver's license, then asked her if she was a US citizen.

Jukaku, a graduate student in US's SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, is in fact a US citizen; in the Post-Standard, for which she writes as a freelancer, she is quoted as wondering whether her appearance -- Jukaku wears a head scarf, in keeping with Muslim tradition -- had something to do with the way she was treated.

'I felt that the question had no relevance,' the Post-Standard quotes her as saying, of being asked about her citizenship.

Medical center spokesperson Gordon Sclar has since clarified that security officers were enforcing hospital policy that restricts photographs on hospital property.

Sclar says Jukaku was between the sidewalk and the parking lot, while she says she remained on the sidewalk throughout her time there. Sclar has further clarified that her appearance was 'not an issue'.

'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 told the Post-Standard. 'It's a government building and we're living in challenging times.'

Sclar however admitted the security officials had gone too far in photocopying her ID. 'Removing the images that she shot was inappropriate, so we apologize,' Sclar added.

The paper quotes copyright attorney Bert Krages as saying that photographers can freely photograph federal buildings from outside the property boundary. Jukaku's photography instructor, Newhouse adjunct professor Doug Wonders, said he has been teaching the course since 1996 and this is the first time he has heard of students having problems with the medical center.

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