What if government could throw you in jail for recording what it does in public?
That may not be what America is coming to. It does seem to be what Newton, Massachusetts, is coming to.
A Newton activist hid his camera during a 2006 political protest in order to tape a police officer. He has been convicted for â€” get this â€” wiretapping. That thing you do â€” or the government does, with or without a warrant â€” to covertly record conversation that the parties have reason to believe is private.
A district court judge sentenced Peter Lowney to six months probation and imposed a $500 fine for secretly continuing to film after police had ordered him to stop. Lowney hid the still-functioning camera in his coat.
$500. The going rate, I guess, for being a reporter on the job even after somebody in authority objects to being held accountable. Lowney was also ordered to remove any video of the event from the Internet.
Could have been worse. In some societies, watchdogs suffer long imprisonment or even the firing squad for daring to collect and provide such evidence.
But what a lunatic precedent. Is this really a road we want to travel in the United States?
Do we need a formal federal law protecting the civil right of citizens to photograph, film, and otherwise record the public conduct of public officers? Thatâ€™s what some commentators are advocating. It should be unnecessary. But I guess it isnâ€™t.
This is Common Sense. Iâ€™m Paul Jacob.