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MISSOULA, Mont. – Outdoor Writers Association of America commends the Supreme Court’s decision to void a 1999 animal cruelty law that appeared to criminalize the sale of hunting and fishing videos and other depictions central to the activities of OWAA members and other outdoors journalists.
“The high court’s 8-1 ruling is a victory for the First Amendment and for those who make their living in outdoors journalism,” said OWAA President John Beath. “OWAA will continue its longstanding tradition of monitoring and taking action on issues that might adversely affect free speech or other rights of both OWAA members and the outdoor media at large.”
In a statement of support for the protection of First Amendment rights and the livelihoods of its members, OWAA last July joined as a friend of the court in the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press brief , which was filed in the U.S. vs. Stevens case. The brief also discussed how the statute used to prosecute the defendant, Robert Stevens, likewise could be used to prosecute producers of outdoors videos and hunting and fishing shows. Â The position taken by OWAA and other journalist groups prevailed with the Supreme Court.
“The federal statute under which Mr. Stevens was prosecuted was ruled to be unconstitutional because it is too broad,” said OWAA Attorney William Jay Powell. “The Supreme Court said that criminalizing such a vast quantity of forms of expression and relying on the legislative history, which indicated that Congress did not intend to criminalize depictions of hunting and fishing, or upon prosecutorial discretion, was impermissible under the First Amendment.”
Other media groups that joined OWAA in the Reporters Committee brief include the Society of Professional Journalists, the New York Times, Newspaper Association of America, The Newspaper Guild, Radio-TV News Directors Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Read the Supreme Court’s opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-769.pdf
The oldest and largest association of professional outdoor communicators in the United States, the OWAA was organized in 1927 by members of the Izaak Walton League of America and includes professional communicators dedicated to sharing the outdoor experience. OWAA’s professionals include writers, photographers, radio and TV show hosts, book authors, videographers, lecturers and artists. Visit http://www.owaa.org.