Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Photography is Not a Crime

Photography is Not a Crime

Freedom of the press in America is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment clearly states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The founders valued freedom of the press so much that no other non-government occupation is even mentioned specifically in our founding documents. Thomas Jefferson once said given the choice between a government without a free press and a free press without a government he would surely choose the latter.

Freedom of the Press is generally understood as prohibiting the government from interfering with the printing and distribution of information and or opinions. It is also understood today that still and motion photography is an integral component of this. Freedom of the press like freedom of speech is however subject to some restrictions, such as defamation law and copyright.

In 1798 not long after the adoption of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the governing Federalist Party attempted to smother criticism by means of the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts. The new law made criticism of Congress, and of the President, a crime, but oddly not the Vice-President. Jefferson, a non-Federalist was Vice-President at the time the law was passed.

The restrictions on freedom of the press proved very unpopular to put it mildly and were central to the ouster of the Federalist Party from power.  Thomas Jefferson opposed the law intensely, and he was elected President in no small part because of this. Once in office he pardoned most of those convicted under the law. He made it a point not to ask what they had done, but only whether they had been charged under the law. In his first Inaugural Address in 1801 he equivocated his longstanding and unflinching commitment to freedom of speech and of the press: 
If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
If Thomas Jefferson and many of the other founders were around today to witness what has become of this vital freedom and duty they would likely attempt to start a second revolution. Today we have a government that would like nothing more than to squash any independent source of investigative journalism. From President Obama who has declared a jihad against whistle blowers to the local cop with a Napoleon complex, our freedom of the press is under a relentless assault.

While everybody has heard of wikileaks, on the local level few if any sites can match Photography is Not a Crime for it's implacable and amazing work. The website started about six years ago when photographer Carlos Miller was arrested [and brutalized] by the Miami-Dade police for simply taking their picture, thus the name of the site. After posting his story and photos on Democratic Underground, the story went viral. Two months later Carlos started the blog in the hope he could help other photojournalists and spread the word about what was happening to our freedoms.

Day in and day out Carlos has continued to post original [and sadly neglected by the media] content. You won't see these stories on MSNBC outside of the rare Trayvon Martin type story, nor will you ever see them on the laughably pro-freedom network Fox News. Rarely you may read about stories like these in the New York Times or Washington Post, but that is exactly why Photography is Not a Crime is such a critical resource for those who need to keep up on the police state America has become. The corporate media will almost always take the police at their word and act as if TV cop shows were reality.

Sadly Carlos, who has no monetization for the site despite it getting a half million page views a month, is near bankrupt due to his countless legal battles against those who would like to silence him [and others like him]. Please visit his incredible blog and give him what ever support you can, it's a resource too valuable to lose in this era of zero accountability by the powerful.

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