There are some, among them a certain troll who likes to hijack my blog’s comments for his small-minded rants, who are of the opinion that journalists must be accredited and licensed in order to hold that “lofty” title. I disagree wholeheartedly; had that sort of constraint been in place 250 years ago, individuals such as Patrick Henry would have been proscribed from publishing their treatises against the King of England, and we might still be no more than ragtag pommy colonies.
Apologies in advance to any Brits offended by the preceding paragraph. I was just being cheeky.
No, the tradition of the citizen-journalist is at the very bedrock of rights the founding fathers held most dear. Troll-boy’s protestations to the contrary, the reporting of news and spouting of opinion by mere commoners is of vital importance to the health of a republic.
And now a federal judge agrees.
Boston lawyer Simon Glik was arrested on October 1, 2007 when he used his cell phone to record officers making a drug arrest, and later sued the city and the officers for violating his rights. After the officers tried to having the lawsuit dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity, a Federal Appeals Court denied the motion last week and ruled that filming and photographing police is in fact protected by the First Amendment. They also note that the rights extend not just to professional news gatherers, but ordinary citizens as well:
“[...] changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status”.
How big is this news? Beyond big.
As I reported well over a year ago, it is a felony crime in the
State of Maryland People’s Republic of Maryland to take video of the Maryland State Police Schutzstaffel in the course of executing their duties (such as shooting pet dogs, for example). Or, should I say, it was.
Now that we can confidently record the jackbooted jagoffs in action, I’m willing to bet that their behavior toward we mere commoners might just be a little less strident. We can only hope.