Reason on TV: Epstein, Judge Napolitano on Reporters Being Arrested for Having Cameras at Public Meetings
Earlier today, Reason.tv's Jim Epstein posted his video of the Park Police arresting another reporter and then Jim for having cameras at a public DC Taxicab Commission meeting. Tonight at 8 pm ET, Epstein will be on Fox Business Network's Freedom Watch to discuss the war on cameras with Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post has an update on the story:
In another statement today, Reed said that the commission has indeed banned videotaping of its proceedings, explaining that the commission has "found television cameras to be disruptive to meetings" due to factors including "the size of the Commission hearing room, the fact that cameramen must move around and place cameras in the faces of Commissioners and guests and that some attendees have demonstrated a tendency to act in a more disruptive manner when cameras are present."
…District law is silent on whether or not photography or recordings are permitted during public proceedings. The current open meetings law has been in effect for less than a year, and there has yet to be any litigation on this particular issue. But restrictions on recording meetings of deliberative bodies are, generally speaking, unusual. D.C. Council, for instance, does not restrict audio or videotaping. However, it's not unheard of for a government body to have such restrictions. Federal courts and many state courts ban photography and recordings of what are otherwise open proceedings.
Also at the Post, John Kelly notes that he wasn't allowed back into the meeting after the arrests were made and the meeting was then carried out in secrecy:
"He's welcome to come back," the Park Police's Lt. Roxanne Brown said. Except he wasn't. He had been placed in handcuffs and taken away. So was Jim Epstein, a reporter for libertarian Reason.TV.
Reed had asked for them to be removed, and they were removed. They were charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful entry/remaining.
I followed the boycotting drivers out of the building. "He did nothing. He never disturbed the meeting," said driver Negede Abebe.
When I tried to go back in to the meeting, a very large uniformed Park Police officer barred my way. Just following orders, he shrugged.
I don't know if there were any reporters in there while Reed and the taxicab commission finished their business. Hmmm. I wonder if that's what she wanted in the first place.
Are journalists no longer allowed to take pictures or videos at public meetings? What exactly is the D.C. Taxi Commission attempting to keep under wraps at this public meeting?
For the life of me, I can't understand how this is either legal or – in any sense of the word – a smart thing to do. At least not in the age of camera phones that can upload videos to the internet.