Keep an eye on ag abuses

A bill would prevent filming animal mistreatment and agricultural pollution.

Daily Editorial Board

A bill was introduced into the state Legislature recently that would ban the distribution of all videos and other information documenting animal mistreatment and agricultural pollution. This misguided bill is being pushed by the agriculture industry, and willing political toadies are going along with it.

But the bill would do nothing less than abridge the right to free speech and criminalize journalism. Even possessing videos or audio recordings of agricultural abuses could become illegal. What kind of dystopian country would we be living in if the government could prohibit and prosecute citizens for distributing truthful information and documents?

It is wrong for whistle-blowing and truth-telling to be made criminal just because an industry finds it too hard to play by the rules and wants to hide its operations from the public.

Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, the chief sponsor of the bill, says its objective is to prevent the harassment of agricultural operations. But if a corporation is abusing animals or breaking laws, documenting that abuse is not harassment. ItâÄôs transparency.

Ironically, the bill would outlaw the same techniques Republicans applauded in various controversies over ACORN, Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio. One can only imagine the uproar if Democrats wanted to ban video recordings of groups that help low-income citizens or that receive government funding.

This bill is another disturbing example of corporations and industries trying to write their own unfair rules with the help of elected pawns. If this bill passes, it will only help agricultural companies cover up crimes and abuses. The Legislature should not let that happen.