Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Public's Right to Know

As a journalist all my working life, I am completely committed to the public’s right to know.

Thus I was outraged recently hearing about Roger Corbin, a member of Long Island’s Nassau County Legislature, its former deputy presiding officer, bringing a lawsuit against News12 and Newsday for broadcasting and publishing images of him in handcuffs.

Corbin was arrested last month on charges that he didn’t report several hundred thousand dollars he received from a developer in his district. He was accused of income tax evasion and lying about the money he got.

U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt ruled in the case that "the court is simply without authority to censor the press" or "to instruct the press as to what" it could air or publish.

A News12 spokeswoman, Deborah Koller-Feeney, said afterwards: “We are pleased with the judge’s decision, and are gratified that the public’s right to know will not be compromised.”

We have, after all, freedom of the press in the United States. Or should have.

There’s an interesting website: Photography is Not a Crime: It’s a First Amendment Right.

It’s run by Carlos Miller and it looks at various attempts in the U.S. to suppress—yes, photography.

It turns out that Miller, a journalist, was arrested by police down in Miami after taking some photos of five police officers standing inside a construction zone along Biscayne Boulevard.

No big deal, but it was against the wishes of the police, he relates, even though taking a photo in a public area is supposed to be legal in America.

Since then, he started the website (http://www.carlosmiller.com/) to focus, he says, on “First Amendment violations against other photographers throughout the country, which occur on a shockingly regular basis.”

Of course, the situation is far worse in other nations.

What a scene last month airing on CNN: Chinese intelligence agents running around with umbrellas to try to block CNN reporter John Vause from being seen on-camera as he reported, on Tianneman Square, about the bloody suppression there 20 years before.

CNN anchor Tony Harris exclaimed that the cover-up, literally, that was happening, "looks absolutely ridiculous. "

Harris said the Chinese agents apparently "don’t care what the rest of the world thinks."
Still, he noted, "the story gets out. "

Only feebly, really. In China the anniversary of the Tianneman Square massacre was suppressed in all Chinese media.


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