Not appreciating the questions a reporter was asking him, a republican legislator from Georgia introduced a bill that would create a state-run Journalism Ethics Board to keep nosy reporters in line.
But the bill is unconstitutional, according to Richard T. Griffiths, president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, who said he thought it was an April Fool’s joke.
It certainly does read like something you would read in the Onion but it’s no joke.
If enacted, the law would require journalists hand over photos, videos and audio recordings to the people they interview – which apparently means any government official.
According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough, a lawyer who has expressed frustration with what he saw as bias from a TV reporter who asked him questions about legislation recently. He said he thinks the profession could benefit by setting ethical standards for all journalists to follow. Five other Republicans signed on to sponsor the bill.
Welch’s bill, House Bill 734 would create an “independent” board, with the chancellor of the University System of Georgia forming a body to appoint members.
The board would create “canons of ethics,” issue advisory opinions, develop voluntary accreditation, set up a system for investigating complaints and sanctioning accredited violators of such canons.
If approved, the bill would also mandate that anyone interviewed by the media would be able to request and receive copies of photographs and audio and video recordings taken by reporters and photographers. Such copies would have to be provided free of cost, even though state and local governments are allowed to charge the public for copies of any documents it provides.
If a media outlet refuses to provide the copies, it would be subject to a lawsuit and a civil penalty, under the bill.
“First I thought this was an April Fools joke,” Georgia First Amendment Foundation President Richard T. Griffiths told the Journal-Constitution.
Griffiths called it for what it was; “an effort to rein in those who have been scrutinizing what’s been happening at the Legislature.”
“Frankly, this is the kind of proposal one would expect to surface in a banana republic, not the Peach State.”