The Citizens Campaign on Tuesday unveiled a model ordinance/resolution for local government entities to guarantee citizens' right to videotape public meetings without unreasonable restrictions.

For more than 30 years both journalists and citizens and have had a common law right to videotape meetings established through the courts, with a caveat that governing bodies may adopt “reasonable rules” to prevent disruptions.  

In the absence of a state statute to give local governing entities clear direction, a handful of municipalities and school districts have adopted unreasonable rules that appear to be designed to discourage videotaping meetings.

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For example, the Borough of Bogota recently adopted rules which substantially limit the ability of the public and the press to videotape meetings. Specifically, their policy requires individuals to hold an insurance policy in case of a tripping accident, limits the number of cameras to only two, and requires two-days notice to video record.

In Plainfield, the School Board threatened to arrest a local blogger if she videotaped meetings, and is currently trying to block video recordings from being posted on the internet or distributed to the public.

 “We designed this model law to comply with the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling and assist citizens who may be having trouble in exercising their rights to video record public meetings,” said The Citizens Campaign Communications Director Heather Taylor.  “We hope this model policy for municipal and school board adoption will help facilitate greater citizen participation and less obstruction.”

The NJ Supreme Court ruling in Tarus v. Pine Hill, 189 N.J. 497 (2007), guaranteed citizens rights to videotape and enabled municipalities to establish rules within certain parameters.

The model policy was developed by The Citizens Campaign’s Law & Policy Task Force. The overall purpose is to provide clarity for the public and guarantee that the rights of citizens and members of media are protected.

The Citizens Campaign is a non-partisan, non-profit organization which promotes citizen leadership and government accountability. The Citizens Campaign offers citizens the tools to get results on issues they care about on its website www.thecitizenscampaign.com.

Editor's Note: The Citizens Campaign founded PatersonPress.com. The Civic Corner is the equivalent to PatersonPress.com's editorial page.
 
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