Activist groups challenge Idaho 'ag gag' law

Lawsuit challenges freedom of speech argument against law that protects farms from unsolicited surveillance.

A court challenge has been filed against Idaho’s recently passed law protecting farmers from activists seeking to conduct video surveillance, obtain records or gain employment with intent to cause economic harm.

 

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU), and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.

 

Idaho is the seventh state to pass an “ag gag” law, and the first to do so since 2012. If found guilty of the misdemeanor crime, defendants could serve as much as one year in jail and be fined as much as $5,000.
The plaintiffs claim the law “silences would-be-whistleblowers by intimidating journalists and activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

 

In the last decade, animal protection advocates have conducted more than eighty undercover investigations at farms in the United States, virtually all of which would be criminalized by the Idaho statute.

 

In a release from plaintiff CFS, Erwin Chemerinky, constitutional law expert and dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said he was “confident that this law will be struck down under Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedents.” He added the law endangers people at the expensive of freedom of speech. “It even would criminalize a whistle-blower who took a picture of video of wrongdoing in the workplace.”
 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are ALDF, PETA, ACLU, CFS, Farm Sanctuary, Farm Forward, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education (IHCIRE), River’s Wish Sanctuary, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Western Watersheds Project, journalist Will Potter, undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff, investigator Monte Hickman, Professor James McWilliams, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and the political journal CounterPunch.

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