Meet your government, ladies and gentlemen. Josh Fox, the Academy Award-nominated director of the fracking documentary Gasland, was arrested today on Capitol Hill for attempting to film a public hearing.
In a stunning break with First Amendment policy, House Republicans directed Capitol Hill police to detain a highly regarded documentary crew that was attempting to film a Wednesday hearing on a controversial natural gas procurement practice [...]
Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Gasland” was taken into custody by Capitol Hill police this morning, along with his crew, after Republicans objected to their presence, according to Democratic sources present at the hearing. The meeting of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment had been taking place in room 2318 of the Rayburn building.
Approximately 16 officers entered the hearing room and handcuffed Fox amid audible discussions of “disorderly conduct” charges, according to Democratic sources present at the arrest.
In the initial Gasland documentary, there is a long sequence near the end documenting a House committee hearing. Now that Fox has critical acclaim and a wider audience, and when Republicans hold the gavel, they throw out cameras and detain filmmakers. Fox was charged with “unlawful entry” into the hearing.
Fox applied for credentialing and never received it, but Democrats on the committee attest to the fact that journalists very rarely get thrown out of hearings in Congress.
The rules requiring pre-approval for film crews are designed to prevent hearings from being disrupted by hordes of camera operators. That was not the case for this hearing. Only two cameras requested entrance to the event, which was not crowded.
Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) was unavailable for comment, but several Democrats on the committee voiced outrage with the GOP’s press blackout.
“I was chair of the Subcommittee for four years, and we frequently had people show up the day of a hearing to film,” Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) told HuffPost. “We asked for their name, but they were told if they would not disrupt the hearing, they were free to record. A couple of times staff said, ‘You’re getting in the way, don’t stand there,’ but other than that, I do not ever recall anything like this. We certainly never turned anyone away for not providing 24 hours’ notice.”
“It’s an outrageous violation of the First Amendment,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told HuffPost. “Here we’ve got an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and it’s an important subject and the subject that he did his prior film on for HBO. And they put him in handcuffs and hauled him out of there. This is stunning.”
The Republicans would not even let another crew film on Fox’ behalf at the hearing. C-SPAN did film the event, which concerned fracking.
I suppose the good news here is that Fox is making a sequel to Gasland, and seeing how autobiographical the first film was, he will probably use this arrest as part of the documentary.