Monday, March 12, 2007

Troubling news ... and the attempts to suppress it

My friend Agnes Varnum posted a link to the following story on the Re:New Media blog ...

France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence
by Peter Sayer, IDG News Service

The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday. ...
(Click here to go to the original Re:New Media post, which includes a link to the full article)

The article describes the possible implications of this law for those citizens who attempt to record and thus prevent police brutality.

Over the past couple months, on two separate occasions, I've been prevented from recording public meetings here in Chicago because I didn't have press "credentials." I don't know what US or Illinois law says specifically about this, but it raises some interesting quesitons if it is actually legal to prohibit the public from performing acts of witness. What justification can there be for this except to limit coverage to those who are in some sense "state sanctioned"?

In my particular case, I was prevented from video taping a Cook County Board hearing at which protestors were testifying against the proposed across-the-board service cuts that threatened public health and safety. Camera crews from the local news outlets had free reign to tape and interview anyone they wanted.

Who would you trust more to present an unfiltered version of events -- a Fox News affiliate or a community activist? What qualifies as "legitimate press" in an environment where mainstream media is increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer entities, most mega-corporations who lobby and fund our elected representatives? Are we gradually being led down the path to state-controlled media?
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