Letter: Government accountability is a constitutional right
The article “Lights, camera, under arrest” (Monitor front page, June 24) accurately summarizes my concerns about people being arrested for tape recording public employees performing their duties in public places.
I do want to clarify my reference to the “ignorance” of the police and some district court judges.
My comment was aimed at their lack of understanding of the legal rights of citizens who participate in recordings of public officials. In particular, the wiretap statute itself applies only when the person taped has a reasonable expectation that the communication will not be subject to interception. Further, the federal appeals court covering New Hampshire has ruled that there is a First Amendment right to tape-record public employees. Most important, Part I, Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution makes government accountability a constitutional right. Video and tape-recording of public officials doing the public business is a direct route to government accountability.
Of particular concern in some of these cases is that district courts have granted warrants to seize individual citizens’ recording devices including tablet computers. Since it is not uncommon for people to have a large part of their private lives contained on their tablets, their seizure is not only a major inconvenience but a massive invasion of privacy. District courts should be serving as impartial checks on police activity and protectors of individual liberty.
My hope is that the Monitor article fosters a better understanding of citizens’ rights in the recording context and reduces the risk that individuals, such as Joe Hamel, will face criminal prosecution for holding public employees accountable.