It joins with 13 news organizations to file an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in case involving animal cruelty case.
The Radio-Television News Directors Association filed a friend of the court brief urging the U. S. Supreme Court to strike down a federal statute that criminalizes the possession, creation or sale of a wide variety of depictions involving animals.
RTNDA fears the law could be used in violation of the First Amendment to prevent airing of investigative or other stories on animal abuse, dog fighting, or other important issues.
Others included in the brief are The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of News Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
The case for which the brief was filed, U.S. v. Stevens, involves a statute that makes it a felony to create, sell or possess “a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain.”
Congress passed the law to prohibit a certain type of fetish pornography involving the death of animals. But RTNDA fears the law can be interpreted too broadly, since the government asked the Supreme Court to rule that depictions of animal cruelty are without value and unprotected speech under the First Amendment. And Congress claims it may ban speech where the government’s interest outweighs the value of that speech.
Kathleen Kirby, RTNDA’s First Amendment counsel, and partner at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, said: “We don’t take issue with the fact that the goal of preventing crush videos and other animal cruelty is certainly a worthy one, but argue that it is this very interest in protecting animals from abuse that makes speech about their treatment so valuable. The brief points out that media outlets ‘often expose the abuse of animals, participate in the national debate over the proper treatment of them, and cover commonplace activities involving animals such as hunting and fishing.’ But the law compromises the news media’s ability to perform any of these functions without fear of prosecution.”
“While RTNDA is certainly behind efforts to prevent cruelty to animals, the unconstitutional banning of coverage of cruelty cases would actually hurt those efforts,” said RTNDA Chairman Stacey Woelfel. “RTNDA joined in this brief to be sure the justices know the value of what broadcast and electronic journalism bring to solving problems like this one.”