New Mexico legislators overwhelmingly approved a resolution requiring people who wish to videotape them in public meetings to ask permission first, a resolution that is overwhelmingly unconstitutional.
The resolution, approved 35-3 with bipartisan support, does not apply to the news media, only to citizens who wish to document the meeting for their own reasons.
However, in this day and age, there is no clear definition of what constitutes the “news media.”
Besides, the First Amendment applies to everybody, not just those who are working for a corporate news company.
As of Thursday, new signs announced the rule in the Senate committee room stated the following:
“Use of any filming or photography device while committee is in session must be cleared with the committee chair,” the sign states. Then, in smaller letters, “Does not apply to the news media.”
New Mexico political blogger Heath Haussamen, who documented the above passage, describes his experience where he was questioned for attempting to take photos.
As I pointed my camera at the Senate Finance Committee chairman, John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, he stopped a hearing to ask me, in front of dozens of people, to identify myself. He asked the ranking member, Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, if was OK with her that I photograph. I don’t remember the exact wording, but she essentially asked why I was there.
Smith explained that I run a prominent blog. Beffort deferred to Smith, and he told me it was OK to photograph.
Someone not used to being singled out by lawmakers, such as a citizen visiting the Roundhouse and trying to take a photo with a camera phone, might have felt intimidated. Because of that, he might not try to take another photograph in the Roundhouse, even though it’s a building that belongs to him.
This is exactly the kind of resolution that needs to be protested to the fullest extent with swarms of citizens entering the committee room with video cameras rolling, refusing to state the reason they are videotaping.
After all, this is still a government of the people, by the people, for the people.