People should be able to record town-hall meetings
More than 220 years ago, the nation’s founders — after gathering in Philadelphia to create the Declaration of Independence — risked life, liberty and property in fighting to create a new nation.
Admittedly, they never had to overcome the fear of being seen on Facebook.
Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., has banned most video and audio recording devices from his town-hall meetings. A Scranton, Pa., Times-Tribune news report quotes his spokesman, Shawn Kelly, as saying the ban was put into effect so those attending these public meetings could speak without fear of having audio or video of their remarks appear on the Web.
Curiously, the “no recording” policy exempts news media video cameras and audio recorders, the news report said.
Barletta is not alone: The Times-Tribune reports that Tom Marino, a Republican in a neighboring district, appears to have the same policy. Marino’s spokeswoman prevented a man from taking a video camera into a town hall meeting in Lackawanna County last week. The man was allowed in without the camera.
Anonymous speech is a valued, historic part of discussion of public issues. Much of the national debate over adopting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — the Federalist Papers are one example — was carried out in published articles where the authors were identified only by pseudonyms.
But Facebook, YouTube and other video-sharing and social-networking sites are a fact of life today. There certainly are private moments in everyone’s life. Offering comments at a public meeting on matters of public policy to an elected government official, in full view of others at the meeting, would not seem to be one of them.
More articles related to Speech Commentary | public meeting, social media, video recording.
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Ken Paulson is president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. He is also the former editor-in-chief of USA Today.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, also is senior vice president of the First Amendment Center, a center of the institute. He is a veteran journalist whose career has included work in newspapers, radio, television and online.
John Seigenthaler founded the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.
Dr. Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute.. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life.
David L. Hudson Jr. is an expert in First Amendment issues and a regular contributor to the First Amendment Center's website. Hudson teaches law and was a scholar at the First Amendment Center.