Orwellian Bill Criminalizing Reporting of Undercover Video Sets Off Battle for Free Speech

From Justin Gardner:

The controversy last year over secretly recorded video taken of Planned Parenthood employees has turned into a bigger controversy over the First Amendment rights of journalists.

After losing the attempt to bring federal charges against the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood and certain state lawmakers are going for the nuclear option known as Assembly Bill 1671.

Courthouse News reports:

“The bill would criminalize publishing undercover video footage of “health care providers” and subject third parties, including journalists, to penalties for reporting and distributing the illegally recorded footage.

Under AB 1671, a journalist receiving and posting footage from an anonymous source could be punished by the state as well as be opened up to potential civil lawsuits. Whistleblowers would not be exempt from the proposal either, regardless of how they obtained the illegal footage.

First-time offenders could be fined up to $2,500 while repeat offenders could face up to a year in prison.”

Regardless of one’s stance on abortion, this proposed law is not a solution for anything, and would represent a politically-motivated evisceration of free speech rights. Such a law could and would be used to silence investigative journalism on many fronts beyond the issue of abortion.

When the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association (CNPA) are in opposition to the bill, it’s time to take a step back.

The EFF points out that the issue represents a collision of two fundamental rights – the right to privacy and the right to free press.

“When these two rights come into conflict, it’s important that we write laws with a scalpel,” said Adam Schwartz. “The EFF is opposed because we think that it could be applied to punish a journalist who had nothing to do with making an unlawful recording.”

Recording a private conversation without the …

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