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by Eric Kohn
February 1, 2012 6:07 PM
7 Comments
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Filmmaker Josh Fox Issues Statement About D.C. Arrest: "I was not expecting to be arrested for practicing journalism."

Josh Fox's "Gasland"

Earlier today, Oscar-nominated "Gasland" filmmaker Josh Fox had been arrested in Washington, D.C. and charged with unlawful entry after trying to film a House Science Committee hearing on fracking.

Fox was processed and released this afternoon; his official statement is below.

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.  I have a long history with the town of Pavillion and its residents who have maintained since 2008 that fracking has contaminated their water supply.  I  featured the stories of residents John Fenton, Louis Meeks and Jeff Locker in GASLAND and I have continued to document the catastrophic water contamination in Pavillion for the upcoming sequel GASLAND 2.   It would seem that the  Republican leadership was using this hearing to attack the three year Region 8 EPA investigation involving hundreds of samples and extensive water testing which ruled that Pavillion's groundwater was a health hazard, contaminated by benzene at 50x the safe level and numerous other contaminants associated with gas drilling.   Most importantly, EPA stated in this case that fracking was the likely cause.  

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.  

When I was led out of the hearing room in handcuffs, John Boehner's pledge of transparency in congress was taken out with me.

The people of Pavillion deserve better. The thousands across the US who have documented cases of water contamination in fracking areas deserve their own hearing on Capitol hill.  They deserve the chance to testify in before Congress.   The truth that fracking contaminates groundwater is out, and no amount of intimidation tactics --either outright challenges to science or the arrest of journalists --will put the genie back in the bottle.   Such a brazen attempt to discredit and silence the EPA, the citizens of Pavillion and documentary filmmaking will ultimately fail and it is an affront to the health and integrity of Americans.  

Lastly, in defense of my profession, 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. 

I will be thinking on this event further and will post further thoughts and developments. 

I have been charged with "unlawful entry" and my court date is February 15. 

Josh Fox
Washington D.C.
2/1/12

7 Comments

  • outsider | February 3, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    He isn't a journalist. The hearing was being broadcast on C-span, so anyone could see it. He was looking to cause headlines, and he got them - so everybody should be happy'

  • babaganoush | February 2, 2012 2:54 PMReply

    he wasn't arrested for practicing journalism. he could have done that with the proper credentials, which he didn't have. not just anybody can bring filming equipment into congress, especially now that the hill is practically on lockdown. why would the director expect laxer requirement than for filming on a public street? either he didn't consider any of this or his gag is just a publicity stunt in coordination with the oscars, much more likely. anybody who doesn't see through that is a dupe.

  • babaganoush | February 2, 2012 5:11 PM

    how did congressmen know who he was in order to kick him out? rules are lax only for legit newsmen, so it's entirely possible everybody at first just thought he was an anonymous a-hole. who he turned out to be is inconsequential to the rest of the story. but because of the timing, it's obvious the guy's just trying to create a stir. then, once he gets the attention he wants, like the occupy goofs, he whines about police brutality. it's called white liberal martyr syndrome.

  • likehurricanes | February 2, 2012 4:37 PM

    People who spend time on Capitol Hill have already said that enforcement of cameras (esp. smartphones) at hearings is spotty. Other reports have stated that this was a hastily scheduled hearing and that Josh Fox did try to get clearance, but got no answer to his request. Clearly security let him through into the building with his filming equipment, so the only people with a problem were Republican members of the committee. Now why is that, when no one else - including non-Republican committee members - had a problem with his presence or with his camera? A vote of the committee members had to be taken to have him ousted from the room. That sounds arbitrary to me, and very fishy. What are they afraid of?

  • Oleok | February 2, 2012 4:03 AMReply

    Sometimes the American society is a joke... on second thought... its more often than just sometimes

  • 2marodreamer | February 2, 2012 1:52 AMReply

    Keep up the fight. What you are doing is needed and appreciated. There are many people that agree with you, but dont speak. Just know that your voice is heard, and the echos cannot be silenced.

  • Deborah Gregorash | February 1, 2012 7:47 PMReply

    This should cause a mighty big commotion. It is an outrage. Like cockroaches, Congress cannot stand the light.