The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.
Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.
Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.
First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they’d allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.
Well, duh. The Forestry Service is claiming they are protecting the wilderness from being exploited for commercial gain, as dictated in the Wilderness Act of 1964. I don’t have the exact language of the law in front of me, but that reeks of bullshit. The Act has been in place for fifty years and we haven’t needed this. It’s one thing to enact rules to prevent a camera crew from traipsing through and destroying protected areas. But requiring a permit reeks of censorship. Mataconis:
What if, for example, a national or local television news reporter were covering a story based on allegations of malfeasance by Forest Service officials that made taking video on Forest Service land relevant? How, in that context, is a reporter supposed to apply for a permit to begin with? From the descriptions of the process, it appears that media outlets are required to provide some kind of justification for why they need the video in question, and in this case that would require the reporter to either lie to a government official or potentially reveal the story they are working on to people who are the focus of that investigation. In a case like that, if a permit is denied, the strong implication would be that the agency had something to cover up because of the manner in which it was restricting press access.
Gee. I have no idea why a government agency might want to vet what’s being reported out of their bailiwick.
Don’t think is happening in a vacuum. If the Forest Service can restrict media access to public lands, other agencies will start restricting media access as well. This is a trial balloon by the Feds. And it needs to be popped.