Debate continues over proposed bill banning photo, video at farm, industrial sites

Lawmakers hear from agriculture, media advocates

INDIANAPOLIS - Lawmakers at the Indiana Statehouse are debating a proposed bill aimed at cracking down on photography and videography at manufacturing sites and farms.

Agriculture has a $26 billion footprint in Indiana and, by state estimates, supports 17 percent of Hoosier jobs.
    
Now the industry is putting pressure on lawmakers to pass the bill, which would make it illegal to videotape or photograph agricultural and industrial activities without the owner's permission.

The debate played out in a committee room Thursday.

"Something has to be done to stop folks from coming onto property as guests and surreptitiously videotaping or taking photography with the intent to do harm," said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

The farming industry is recovering from several public relations nightmares. Over the past three years, hidden camera videos from animal advocates and disgruntled employees have led to the federal government taking action.

In response, a number of states, including Iowa and Utah, have already passed legislation banning photography and videotaping on farmland.

"There is no constitutional right to gather news on private property," said Bob Kraft, with Indiana Farm Bureau.

There is talk that the bill is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

"It's bad public policy," said Steve Key, with the Hoosier State Press Association. "You're not only chilling photos of illegal activity, but you may be chilling photos legal activity that should be addressed."

Several media and consumer advocacy groups say existing law is available to hold people accountable for trespassing on private property and posting videos that make false accusations.
 
"I'm a fourth generation farmer, and when you put a bill like this, it makes us look like we all have something to hide," said Barbara Sha Cox.

The bill could get a vote next Thursday. The chair of the committee expects amendments to arise from this Thursday's debate.

Under the proposal, the first offense would be a ticket, the second offense could involve a criminal charge involving a Class B misdemeanor.

Some people would be exempt from the proposed law, including police, appraisers and people who turn in their pictures or video to law enforcement within 48 hours.

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