Saturday, February 4, 2012

Repression 1, Free Speech 0

Photo of Josh Fox being handcuffed by a Capitol police officer
It's bad enough that journalists have been and are being excluded from covering police actions against the Occupy movement and that the World Press Freedom Index downgraded the U.S. from 20th to 47th, but now it's even happening in the halls of Congress.

The First Amendment is a bit open to interpretation, but the part that says "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom...of the press" seems pretty clear.

Tell that to the chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. He ordered an Oscar-winning documentarian arrested last week, after denying him and his crew credentials to film at an open committee hearing. The hearing wasn't mobbed with crews wanting to film, so limited space -- the only legitimate grounds to deny a journalist access to an open hearing -- was not the reason. It was clearly a political rejection. Details here.

The filmmaker, Josh Fox, is known for the HBO documentary Gasland, which turned a critical eye on the use of hydraulic fracturing as a natural gas drilling method. Fox is working on a sequel and wanted to film a hearing on links between fracking and water pollution in Wyoming.

He had applied through the proper channels and was refused. According to the Huffington Post:
Fox asked to attend when the hearing was announced on Monday. By Tuesday morning, he had been refused by Republican leadership on the committee. Fox appealed to the chairman, but did not hear back before the hearing. His crew, he said, was told, "If you're working for 'Gasland,' just forget it." Any credentialed reporter working on the documentary "will have their credentials jeopardized," he said the crew was told.
There were reports that an ABC crew, with the proper credentials, was also denied access to the room. (CSPAN was filming, but it only shoots in low resolution, and ABC and Josh Fox wanted better footage.)

By the way, no one stopped the Congressional staffers who hauled out their iPhones to film Fox's arrest. I guess only journalists are prohibited from filming in the halls of Congress.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

Doesn't it seem that every year the Republicans get more hinky and thin-skinned?