Throwing aside the First Amendment Wednesday morning, lawmakers at a hearing on Capitol Hill directed police to arrest a documentary film crew that was attempting to film a hearing on fracking, a controversial method of drawing natural gas from the earth.
The Huffington Post reported Wednesday morning: “Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Gasland” was taken into custody by Capitol Hill police this morning, along with his crew, after Republicans objected to their presence, according to Democratic sources present at the hearing.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Fox and his crew had joined other media in the Rayburn building on Capitol Hill to record the hearing by a House subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology, led by Representative Andy Harris (R-Md.), a vocal proponent of fracking. Police reportedly arrested the filmmaker at the request of House Republicans who said he lacked the proper press credentials.
House Democrats have criticized the Republican decision.
“I have served in the House of Representatives since 1992, and I had the privilege of chairing the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. In all that time, I cannot recall a chair of any committee or subcommittee having ever ordered the removal of a person who was filming a committee proceeding and not being disruptive, whether or not that person was accredited,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). “The proceedings of the House are open to the public because we are the People’s House.”
Fox also released a statement reading, in part:
The First Amendment to the Constitution states explicitly “Congress shall make no law…that infringes on the Freedom of the Press”. Which means that no subcommittee rule or regulation should prohibit a respectful journalist or citizen from recording a public hearing. This was an act of civil disobedience, yes done in an impromptu fashion, but at the moment when they told me to turn off the cameras, I could not. I know my rights and I felt it was imperative to exercise them. When I was led out of the hearing room in handcuffs, John Boehner’s pledge of transparency in congress was taken out with me.
Fox is charged with unlawful entry, his court date is set for February 15.
“Gasland” trailer below: