AK Congress Cracks Down On... Cameras?


The public is prevented from using cameras while in the Gallery of the House of Reps in AK.

Contributed by Josh Fryfogle

I can tell you that I didn’t intend to write this story. This is an article that I had no idea would be an issue. In Juneau recently, I sat in the Gallery with a group of school kids, observing government in action. 

My heart began a slow drop to a dull but painful ache, and my sense of defense of Liberty leaped into my throat. I told a bystander that this was a complete departure from the spirit of the law. But I also believe in order, and the brotherhood of man, so I opted to not ruin this experience with my protest.

I stepped out of the Gallery, and asked one of the pages if it was true, that the People could not use cameras in the Gallery, overlooking the public process. They confirmed. I pointed past the cordoned off Senate floor, where the sign reads: Legislators Only......

“What about all those cameras?”

This young page, unknowingly infringing upon the basic first amendment right of freedom of the press, seemed confused.

“I’ve published a newspaper for more than a decade,” I tell the young lady. 

She says, “Oh, you could probably get a press pass...” as she turns to fetch someone to that end. I stop her. I don’t want a press pass. I am a press pass. What part of individual rights are we not understanding?

Here’s the problem, the media as an industry has grown up around our individual right to freedom of the press. I’m not going to speculate some paranoid idea that these legislators have done this by design. This could only have happened had the People at some point left their Right to freedom of the Press unattended, unused. Had someone been there, engaging in that right, this poor policy could never have been seeded into the daily decorum of Congress.

I live in District 10, so after returning to the Mat-Su, and sleeping one more night on it, I reached out to my Representative, David Eastman. As usual, he promptly responded:

JF: “Can you confirm something for me? My understanding, from one of the House or Rep pages, is that cameras are not allowed in the gallery while you folks are in session. Is that correct?”

DE: “Members of the press are permitted to take photos, videos and recordings during floor sessions. Guests are treated differently. They hand out press badges for that purpose. Theoretically, we still have free press in this country. I won’t say they always honor it.”

JF: “Where is the public allowed to be during session?”

DE: “Gallery.”

JF: “And only there?”

DE: “Yup.”

My heart sank with his straightforward answer, reminding me of how it felt when I heard of this poor policy.

JF: “Because this policy is an infringement of the individual freedom of the press...”

DE: “Theoretically, you might be able to walk up as far as the cordon.”

JF: “There is no ‘press corp’ amendment of clause...” [referring to the Freedom of Press Clause in the First Amendment.]

JF: “I don’t want or need a press pass. I am a person. A natural person. This is why Yellow Journalism will thrive.”

DE: “It is exceedingly authoritarian. They won’t even let my paid staffer take photos, or video, and I am forbidden from doing it myself. And then they threaten me with lawsuits if I distribute material from the only publicly available source.”

Don’t go blaming these particular people that are currently in these offices, either. That’s what a psychiatrist might term ‘projecting’, where we are apt to accuse someone else of what we are guilty of.

This is a public apathy problem. I’m not blaming everyone that’s alive today, either. I am instead doing my part, as a person who publishes, to let my neighbors know what I found to be the root problem. A seemingly simple problem, it is indicative of an institutionalized infringement of our individual rights.

This article is being published as a public statement, for the consideration of the public, and a grievance for our representatives in the House, who live among us. The right of freedom of the press belongs to the People first. The corporate media employs hired hands to carry it’s cameras into the Capitol, even onto the floor itself, where the common People are restricted from entering. It is shameful.

It is equally shameful that the People aren’t told about this, but who would tell them? The paid people with a so-called ‘press pass’? This exclusivity that they experience excludes them from our experience, so how could they possibly report it? They are given a pass, to exercise our freedom.

And why would they report it?

The rise of independent journalism is already changing how information is shared, and social media is only the beginning. 

As long as the corporate media is completely entrenched in our system of governance, and the public is restricted from using a camera in the only place where the public is allowed to observe the process, then Yellow Journalism (the original fake news) will reign supreme. Your congress will answer to an industry, the media, and not to the people that they represent. 

This is not the 1700’s, we don’t need a man on a horse to send a letter, and we don’t need a sketch artist to create a picture. Modern tech has made the intent of the freedom of the press more valuable than ever before, giving the tech and tools to make the average person capable of actually changing the conversation!

But not if we can’t use those tools. 

And not if we don’t use our rights.

Call your congressperson and tell them, the right of the people to keep and bear cameras shall not be infringed!

Here’s the good news - it’s not a law, it’s a policy, so it won’t take an act of congress to clear this up. But nothing will change if we don’t demand a redress of grievance, as is also guaranteed under the First Amendment.