Newtown photos barred: Did lawmakers balance privacy, public's right to know? (+video)
The Connecticut legislature passed a bill Wednesday restricting the release of crime-scene photos of the Newtown victims. The law brought relief to family members, but it's also prompted concerns among civil liberties groups.
(Page 2 of 3)
It also puts a one-year moratorium on release of audio recordings that describe the condition of victims. The law does not include protection for 911 recordings.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The language of the law seems overly broad to Mr. Paulson, who says these kinds of restrictions are “dangerous” because “the public has a very real interest in understanding how fellow citizens have lost their lives.”
It’s not the first time a state legislature has acted to restrict access to public records in the name of privacy rights.
In Florida, following the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt in a race-car crash, lawmakers exempted autopsy photos from the public-records law unless released by a family member or judge, and the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law. The Orlando Sentinel had wanted access to the photos to independently verify the reported cause of death, because there was a question about whether the use of a head-and-neck restraint device could have saved his life, The Florida Times-Union reported.
“We’ve always had people who would use information to be spiteful or hurtful, [but] I don’t think closing off government records is the best way to fight against that baser human tendency,” says Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, which sent a letter in conjunction with its Connecticut chapter to Governor Malloy, objecting to the new legislation and the fact that it was crafted without public hearings.
Connecticut journalism associations also sent a joint letter to Malloy, stating in part: “While many tragic events have made us question whether the disclosure of information is always in the best interest of a society, history has demonstrated repeatedly that governments must favor disclosure. Only an informed society can make informed judgments on issues of great moment.”
Eight family members of victims posted a petition on the website Change.org, which attracted more than 105,000 supporters of the law. The petition cites other precedents such as the withholding of images related to the scene of the shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 and the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster in 1993.