Stiffling the Press

Gagging the Press

 

Agriculture gag laws are violating press freedom in the US

Measures to penalise investigative reporters who expose conditions in industrial agriculture are a threat to democracy

Big companies have pushed legislators to pass laws limiting the freedom to report on conditions at livestock facilities including slaughterhouses. Photograph: Christian Charisius/Reuters

 

Multiple states have passed what are known as “ag gag laws”, designed to penalise investigative reporters who explore conditions on industrial agriculture operations. Many of these laws focus specifically on livestock, in the wake of numerous exposés on the abuses of livestock in industrial agriculture. These laws are a significant threat to the freedom of the press, and it’s rather remarkable that they are being allowed to stand. More than that, they threaten the health and safety of consumers, in addition to making it difficult and sometimes impossible for consumers to make educated choices about the sources of their food.

The US should be in an uproar about ag gag laws, and it’s not. That’s a telling reflection of attitudes about agriculture, and illustrates the lack of interest among many people in the US about journalism and how it functions, and the purpose of investigative journalism in particular. Attempts to raise awareness about the issue are often met with indifference; they are not as interesting and seductive as celebrity scandals, evidently, even though they are far more scandalous, and impact people’s lives more immediately and directly.

It should come as no surprise to learn that the source of the pressure behind ag gag laws is, of course, industrial agriculture. Big companies have pushed legislators heavily to pass laws limiting the freedom to report on conditions at livestock facilities, including ranches, feedlots, and slaughterhouses. With the benefit of lobbyists, they can exert pressure directly in the halls of the legislature, as well as doing so indirectly by contributing to the electoral process and deciding who gets elected. In states like Iowa, you have to be agriculture-friendly to get elected, and if you want a chance at beating the competition, you’d better be willing to toe the line on industrial agriculture so you’ll get the needed support.

Several techniques are used in ag gag laws in an attempt to restrict the ability to report on livestock operations. One option has been quite direct, with an attempt to ban the distribution of photos and videos taken on farms without consent of the owner. These attempts have been smacked down on the grounds that they violate first amendment rights. Taking a new angle, lobbyists have pushed for legislation that makes lying on job applications related to agricultural work a criminal offense. A journalist taking an undercover job, in other words, could be convicted of a crime.

Source: The Guardian Read more

Opinion:

The hounds of BIG ag industry are baying for the blood of journalists who expose the despicable conditions of the industry. And the state governments are giving them the teeth to do it.

Again we have politicians sold, bought and paid for!

Politicians are denying the right to know of the people.

It’s time these bastards were exposed and excised like the cancer they are.

Freedom of the Press is paramount to the freedom of the people.

 

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