"Gasland" filmmaker arrested for trying to film public hearing in Congress

Above: Fox being handcuffed during a House of Representatives hearing in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2012. Video posted by Earthjustice.

The Huffington Post and Politico have the news that anti-gas-drilling activist and filmmaker Josh Fox was arrested on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Fox is an influential voice in the debate over the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, which is poised to become legal in New York.

Fox's arrest, which the Huffington Post has on film at length, was for trying to film a public hearing of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. The subject of the hearing was an Environmental Protection Agency investigation of possible groundwater contamination in Wyoming caused by hydraulic fracturing. Fox explored the same subject in his Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland.

Fox was arrested because he didn't have a credentialed press pass, according to Politico:

Committee staffers announced to the waiting crowd prior to the hearing that only credentialed media would be allowed to tape the hearing. Fox said that he submitted several formal requests to tape the hearing, but that those requests were denied since his crew did not have Capitol media credentials.

In a statement issued yesterday (read it in full on the Huffington Post), Fox acknowledged that by filming the hearing without the credentials, he had committed an act of "civil disobedience." But he defended his actions as a journalist attempting to film a public meeting, which, incidentally, was already being filmed by C-SPAN:

As a filmmaker and journalist I have covered hundreds of public hearings, including Congressional hearings. It is my understanding that public speech is allowed to be filmed. Congress should be no exception. No one on Capitol Hill should regard themselves exempt from the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution states explicitly "Congress shall make no law...that infringes on the Freedom of the Press". Which means that no subcommittee rule or regulation should prohibit a respectful journalist or citizen from recording a public hearing.

This was an act of civil disobedience, yes done in an impromptu fashion, but at the moment when they told me to turn off the cameras, I could not. I know my rights and I felt it was imperative to exercise them.