SPJ statement on Islandia secrecy bill

SPJ logoThis proposed ordinance is simply crazy. I believe that if this law were to be enacted it would make Islandia the laughing stock of New York, and the country, and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal costs to defend, and eventually have tossed out, a proposal that is counter to New York case law and any law of this country. To prohibit any recordings, confiscate equipment and fine people $250 is what we see in countries like Algeria and Libya. I’m amazed that anyone would draft such legislation in the United States. It’s illegal and it’s anti-American.

From a legal perspective, New York case law specifically provides people the right to record public meetings as long as they aren’t disruptive. In fact, 43 states specifically allow people to record meetings as long as they are not causing a disruption. And of those seven states that don’t have specific provisions allowing recording, the common practice is to allow it.

From a practical perspective, it is unconscionable that a public agency would attempt to prevent recording of its meetings. What does it have to hide? If the purpose is to avoid disruptions to the meeting, there are ways to set accommodate tape records, cameras, video recorders and cell phones cameras in a way that won’t bother the proceedings. Islandia needs a reality check.

David Cuillier

Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Chairman

Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, University of Arizona

Posted in: FOI

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