This week, a news article about a law in Wyoming and filming on public lands started circulating on websites and Facebook. OWAA member Todd Tanner asked for comment from OWAA. OWAA President Mark Freeman posted this response.
Mark Freeman here. I am the current president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. While I have not read Wyoming’s law, I can tell you that we have been highly involved this past year in commenting on proposed federal legislation and policies that run afoul of the First Amendment rights of the professional outdoor communicators within our ranks.
Since we are an association of professional communicators, we have limited our comments to matters that impact professional journalists and not the general public.
At issue here is OWAA’s intent to ensure that no legislation or policy language interferes with the Constitutionally protected activities of working journalists while collecting information, images and other material for dissemination. Restricting access to public lands or the telling of journalists what they can or cannot report on smacks of government’s attempt at prior restraint of journalists. That didn’t fly during the First Amendment’s infancy, and it doesn’t fly now.
As for the concept that journalists in Wyoming are barred from capturing data on private or public lands while, for instance, standing on a public roadway, state and federal courts have a long-standing position on their lack of constitutional footing. There are people with much nicer smiles who have tried to ban some of the most egregious photographers from snapping images of them in public as well as standing on their own lawns.
Knowing that even the paparazzi are protected under federal law while chasing the glitterati, it’s hard to imagine that Wyoming’s law as reported will withstand a Constitutional test in court.
For more on our specific and detailed comments to these First Amendment issues, here are a few links to visit.
OWAA sends letter about permits for filming on public lands to Senate Committee
OWAA position on permits for filming and photography on public lands