Newscasts

PNS Daily Newscast - October 19, 2018 


Senator Corker demands the Trump administration share intelligence on the killing of a Washington Post columnist. Also on the Friday rundown: groups sue over the Texas border wall plan; and the soggy summer in some states may lead to higher pumpkin prices for Halloween.

Daily Newscasts

Courts to Decide Iowa's "Ag-Gag" Law in 2019

Journalistic exposÚs of cruelty or unsafe practices in Iowa's animal agriculture industry were stymied by passage of the state's "ag-gag" law in 2012. (bawl.org.au)
Journalistic exposÚs of cruelty or unsafe practices in Iowa's animal agriculture industry were stymied by passage of the state's "ag-gag" law in 2012. (bawl.org.au)
March 5, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa - Opponents of Iowa's "ag-gag" law are awaiting a court date for a trial they hope will provide a similar result to what has happened in other states.

Last week, a federal judge denied the state's motion to dismiss a pending lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ag-gag laws. This means the case can go to trial in mid-2019. The law prohibits journalists, watchdog groups or other whistleblowers from gaining access to agricultural facilities to expose inhumane practices or safety violations.

Mark Stringer, executive director of the ACLU of Iowa, said he believes having special legal protections for farm interests is unconstitutional.

"Only speech criticizing the agricultural industry is targeted in this manner," he said, "and this sort of targeting of one specific area of speech by the government is a violation of the First Amendment."

He noted that similar ag-gag laws have been struck down in Idaho and Utah.

Under Iowa's current law, anyone who gains access to an agricultural production facility under false pretenses can face up to a year in jail, which Stringer said effectively has terminated exposés of any wrongdoing in the farm industry.

"I can tell you that, when the ag gag law was passed, legislative leaders in Iowa openly recognized that it might be unconstitutional, and stated that they would let the courts decide," he said. "So, we're pleased that the proceedings will continue, so that the court can do just that."

Stringer said he believes exposing food-industry violations that put the public at risk should be rewarded, not punished.

He said he sees any law that protects one industry's private interests as a "bad law."

"We think that there's real harm to our democracy, when the government uses the power of criminal laws to target unpopular speech in order to protect those with power," he said, "and that's exactly what the ag-gag law is about."

Former Gov. Terry Branstad signed the ag-gag law in 2012, after pressure from some farm industry groups and legislators.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA