The board of the Press Club of Long Island, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, strongly objects to the Oyster Bay Town Board’s new rule that, under the guise of maintaining decorum, authorizes the presiding officer to have someone criminally charged for photographing or recording public meetings in a manner that he finds disturbing.
A rule that permits the presiding officer to remove journalists from a meeting and even have them charged by the police for having a television camera that is too large or for moving about a room to shoot photographs flies in the face of the First Amendment. The rule puts journalists in the position of choosing between doing their work effectively and facing a punishment of up to 15 days in jail. If the rule is allowed to stand, it will be at the expense of freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.
Under New York State Open Meetings Law, it is the duty of the Town Board to accommodate large cameras, broadcast equipment and lighting so journalists can broadcast and publish what occurs at public meetings. First Amendment rights are not subject to the discretion of the town supervisor.
We strongly urge the town board to rescind this new rule.