"‘Ag-Gag’ Reflex"

"State legislatures are pushing to stifle farm investigations, and some news associations are fighting back."

"FAIRWAY, KS — On Feb. 8, Amy Meyer, a 25-year-old activist, recorded cell-phone video of activities at a slaughterhouse in a Salt Lake City suburb. Eleven days later she was informed, much to her surprise, that she was being prosecuted for a Class B misdemeanor under a new Utah state law prohibiting 'agricultural operation interference'—an offense that could mean up to six months in jail.

Meyer was the first person in the country to face prosecution under the so-called 'ag-gag' laws, which are designed to limit the ability of animal-rights groups to interfere with—or even investigate—agricultural facilities. After the case attracted media attention, the charge against her was quickly dropped.

But Meyer’s case is part of an aggressive legal push that raises alarm bells across the country, for activists and journalists alike. Ag-gag legislation has now been enacted in sevensix states and introduced in at least 15 more. Many of the laws, passed at the behest of agribusiness groups, are based on model legislation drafted by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and they target what the group calls 'animal and ecological terrorists.' But most if not all of the bills are broad enough that investigative reporters could also find themselves bound and 'gagged.'"

Deron Lee reports for the Columbia Journalism Review August 6, 2013.

Source: CJR, 08/07/2013