The fight to silence fracking opponents: Republicans order arrest of Gasland creator Josh Fox
“I was arrested today for exercising my First Amendment rights to freedom of the press on Capitol Hill. I was not expecting to be arrested for practicing journalism. Today’s hearing in the House Energy and Environment subcommittee was called to examine EPAs findings that hydraulic fracturing fluids had contaminated groundwater in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming.” Josh Fox
Josh Fox is now prolific for his work to highlight the stories of Americans who’ve been affected by the rise of the unconventional gas industry and in particular the technique of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) to stimulate gas flow. His 2010 documentary, Gasland, was a devastating blow to the industry. Fox is currently working on a sequel.
Further from Fox’s statement:
As a filmmaker and journalist I have covered hundreds of public hearings, including Congressional hearings … 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. [...]
…I will state that many many Americans get their news from independent documentaries. The hill should immediately move to make hearings and meetings accessible to independent journalists and not further obstruct the truth from being reported in the vivid and in depth manner that is only achievable through long form documentary filmmaking.
The decision of Republican committee chairman Andy Harris to have Fox arrested is indicative of ongoing attempts from the industry and its allies to silence the voice of opponents.
This from The Guardian:
Josh Fox was ejected from the hearing, on drinking water contamination and fracking, on Wednesday after Republicans objected to having cameras in the committee room.
He was later charged with unlawful entry by Capitol Hill police and ordered to appear in court on 15 February, he told the Guardian.
The confrontation with Fox came as the Environmental Protection Agency released more than 620 documents in support of its finding that fracking had contaminated the drinking water of a small town in Wyoming.
Fox and his crew did not have Hill press credentials, although he had requested permission to film before the hearing.
He said: “It was clear they were blocking us and it was not the first time they were blocking us.”
Zach Carter writing for Huffington Post notes it is unusual for journalists to be turned away from covering hearings:
…turning away journalists is extremely rare on Capitol Hill. The rules requiring pre-approval for film crews are designed to prevent hearings from being disrupted by hordes of camera operators. That was not the case for this hearing. Only two cameras requested entrance to the event, which was not crowded.
And here is the video of the interaction between Fox, the Committee and the Capitol Hill police: