House Addresses Free Speech Concerns With Whistleblower Bill

A House committee modified a bill that would make it a crime to take pictures or shoot video in an effort to hurt or defame a business.

cows

Photo: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

Under the law, taking undercover photos at agricultural facilities or factories would be illegal.

A House committee made changes Thursday to a bill that would create new criminal penalties for activists sharing photos or videos of potentially embarrassing or illegal activities at farms and factories. The changes are intended to help ease concerns about free speech issues.

The original bill made it a crime to disseminate photos or videos taken at agricultural and industrial operations intended to harm the business, such as animal rights activists posting defaming video of slaughterhouses. After an amendment approved in committee, the bill would now make it a crime simply to take pictures or shoot video at all in an effort to hurt or defame the business, not mentioning distribution.

Supporters say the legislation still contains protection.

Senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle) says removing the dissemination language doesn’t make much difference.

“If you disseminate or distribute to somebody other than law enforcement, that is going to be prima facie evidence that you did something wrong,” he says. “So we don’t have to say for it to be understood that that’s illegal for you to have done what you did.”

Humane Society Indiana director Erin Huang says the changes certainly don’t make the bill better.

“I think even with the amendments, the point here is and the point of this bill is instead of cleaning up the abuses that have been uncovered in other undercover investigations, they want to prevent the American people from finding out about it,” Huang says.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says he still has some concerns about the constitutionality of the measure and will continue to study it as it now heads to the House floor.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

View all posts by this author »

  • Dr Michael Cole

    Telling the truth is not defamation. This is a restriction of free speech and freedom of the press (who would be unable to publish the truth). The Bill is unconstitutional and should be stuck down by the High Court.
    http://www.westmeadhospitalwhistleblowers.com

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media News:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search News

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

Follow us on Twitter

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media News:

Recent Politics Stories

Recent Videos

Find Us on Facebook