U.S. Capitol Police arrested well respected documentary filmmaker Josh Fox at a House hearing on fracking Wednesday on the orders of some members of Congress, according to reports.
“I’m within my First Amendment rights, and I’m being taken out,” Fox, who directed the documentary Gasland, shouted as he was being taken away.
Fox was arrested just after 10 a.m. on Wednesday as a hearing by the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation into water contamination due to fracking in Wyoming got underway.
The committee chairman can decide whether or not to allow journalists to film hearings if they do not have proper press credentials. While Fox did not have any press credentials at the time of his arrest, he had applied for proper credentials earlier this week and was not granted them or given explicit permission to film. Fox reportedly had even asked another credentialed crew to film for him before he found out that it wouldn’t be allowed.
Such actions against well-known and established journalists like him are sparse.
Fox’s acclaimed film Gasland created a buzz when it was released in 2010. That now iconic image of faucet water combusting as a lighter is held nearby is from this film, and it’s an image that continues to remind us of the reality of water contamination due to fracking, the practice of using highly pressurized water to extract gas.
Rep. Brad Miller motioned to suspend the committee rules and allow Fox to film, and shortly after the committee went into recess.
“It’s clear we have space in this room to film this hearing,” Miller told Politico. “If you claim that rule does not allow them to film, or allows you the discretion to turn them away, I move the rules be suspended so the fella who wanted to film for HBO be allowed to film this hearing and that ABC be allowed to film this hearing and all God’s children be allowed to film this hearing until the room is too full for us to conduct our business.”
After reports suggested that an ABC News crew was also turned away from the hearing, the network has since told the Huffington Post that it did not send a crew out to the hearing.
“I was chair of the subcommittee for four years, and we frequently had people show up the day of a hearing to film,” Miller told the Huffington Post. “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.”
House Republicans had the option of sending Fox to get proper press credentials before ordering his arrest, and they voted down multiple motions to suspend the rules and to postpone the hearing to allow for Fox’s filming.
The length to which the fracking industry and its cronies in Congress are willing to go (including, it seems, violating the First Amendment right to a free press) to attempt to convince us that fracking is safe and prevent journalists from providing us with information to the contrary only further highlights the attention we should pay to this issue.