Thursday, September 24, 2009

Court Asked To Censor Hunting and Fishing Imagery?

© By Othmar Vohringer

Once again the US government tries with the help of the courts to censor our right of expression. This is important to all outdoor writers, photographers, hunting video producers, and hunting, and fishing blog/website owners. If the following case is decided against us we’re doomed. Please take note and act today.

Press release from POMA

JOHNSTOWN, PA. - The Professional Outdoor Media Association, a professional organization of traditional outdoor sports journalists and hunting and fishing industry professionals and organizations will participate in an audio news briefing today, September 24 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

POMA will discuss a case in which the government is asking the Supreme Court for the power to censor hunting and fishing imagery, creating a new exception to the First Amendment for the first time in 25 years.
At issue in U.S. v. Stevens, No. 08-769, is a 1999 federal law that makes it a crime to create, sell or possess videos and other depictions of cruelty to animals. The case arose over the conviction of a Virginia man, Robert Stevens, who received a three-year prison sentence from a Pennsylvania court for selling videos that included scenes of hunting with dogs. The Justices will hear arguments in the case on Tuesday, October 6.
In addition to working with the Washington, D.C., Jones Day Law Firm to file a brief on behalf of its members, Laurie Lee Dovey, POMA's executive director, coordinated a larger group of amici from a wide range of constituencies.

The American Society of Media Photographers, North American Nature Photographers, Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, Texas Outdoor Writers Association and more than 600 individual journalists, outdoor industry professionals and sportsmen joined POMA's brief.

POMA members, such as the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and others filed individual briefs on behalf of their members.
The speakers at the audio news conference are:

David Horowitz, Executive Director, Media Coalition
Laurie Lee Dovey, Executive Director, Professional Outdoor Media Association
Joan Bertin, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship
Chris Finan, President, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Doug Burdin, Litigation Counsel, Safari Club International

Read more.

Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit


Colorado Angler said...

While I would agree that the depictions of cruelty to animals could, at times, be a bit ambiguous, I think your reaction may be a little premature.

Certain instances of wanton cruelty and destruction are pretty cut and dried, so I think most of us would applaud the effort to charge those that are found guilty of such crimes and punish them accordingly.

And I think this is what this initiative is driving at - the obvious depictions of abuse and/or killing of wildlife - so your statement that the US government is trying to censor our right to freedom of expression is a bit misguided.

Where I WOULD have concerns, however, is around the criteria with which images were to be judged (and who's doing the judging).

Bow hunters, in most instances, don't drop their prey with the first shot - so does a video of a hunter, taking down a bear with TWO arrows constitute animal cruelty? Who's to determine that?

Or the angler that hooks a fish and gets him to net - only to hold it out of the water for a picture before releasing him - does this constitute cruel and unusual punishment? To some, probably, yes.

I don't think you need fear about losing your rights to freedom of expression, Othmar - however, this could open up a pandora's box of issues that we'd all rather not see come to light.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Colorado Angler - If this law is bullied through the court and becomes effective then kill scenes and fish catching scenes on video are a thing of the past.

Animal rights already say that hunting and fishing is cruelty to animals. If you ever have watched a fishing or hunting show on TV you may have noticed the TV stations disclaimer "..contains scenes that may be disturbing to some viewers...".

This is the law animal rights and the political correct fringe have been lobbying hard. So we have every reason to watch the development with some measure of concern.

And yes I do see that, like many others, as an infringement on my rights of expression. It's plain censorship that will affect just about anyone in the hunting communication industry.


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