Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho "Ag-Gag" Law as Unconstitutional

August 12, 2015

A federal judge on August 3, 2015, struck down Idaho's law against undercover videos in agricultural facilities, saying it violated the First Amendment.

"The facts show the state's purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics," district Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote.

Sometimes investigative journalists need to go undercover. Nellie Bly did it. Upton Sinclair did it. And sometimes muckraking journalists need undercover whistleblowers to tip them to abuses. All that could be illegal under the "ag-gag" laws passed by some farm states in recent years.

Seven states besides Idaho have passed similar laws: Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Utah and North Carolina. The question now is what effect the Idaho decision will have on their enforceability. A coalition of journalism groups currently has pending a lawsuit challenging Utah's ag-gag law on First Amendment grounds.

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