Tuesday, November 01, 2016

When we call something "public," let's be precise

So this arrived in my inbox this morning
"Ga. journalists arrested for filming during open meeting; may face jail time"


And it links to this, with the headline:

Georgia Citizen Journalist Facing Criminal Charges for Recording Public Meeting

And, yes, there should be lots of outrage over this. Watch the video (I've included it directly here as well).

And I very much hope Tisdale wins her lawsuit and bleeds them dry.

But we need to be accurate when we call something a "public" meeting. This was the note I wrote to the SPJ official, Sharon Dunten, who sent this out:


With all due respect, and very much acknowledging that the officer's behavior here seems beyond the pale.

A political rally on private property is not a "public" meeting. Whether it was advertised as such and so she was there by invitation, and thus the trespass is bogus, is, unfortunately, a matter to be adjudicated (or, one might hope, dropped by a sane prosecutor, which does not seem to be the case). Whether it was advertised as "public" is a point of evidence and perhaps law in that adjudication -- once one invites the public, may one then decide to kick part of the public out? But inviting the public  does not mean that one relinquishes the right to control numerous aspects. (e.g.: "No shoes, no shirt, no service").

Yes, there should be outrage directed at the deputy. Yes, it's BS to invite the public to a rally like this and then expect a reporter with a camera not to be there (if she had just had a notebook, would she have just blended in and  been ignored? - serious duplicity for which the organizers should be called to heel).

But let's not weaken the case and diffuse what should be focused outrage by calling it a public meeting. Let's save that for when this kind of stuff happens at real public meetings where the law is crystal clear so that so we have an even clearer case. It is entirely appropriate for us to be outraged at this. It is not good for us to bandy about the term "public," thus weakening, not strengthening, its meaning. Bad cases make bad law -- and bad statement of the facts makes bad practice.

Doug Fisher

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