1st Amendment cited in BLM wild horse fight

By Scott Sonner / The Associated Press /  The Bend Bulletin

Published: September 18. 2013

images-13RENO, Nev. — The Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is using safety concerns as an excuse to limit media access to wild horse roundups across the West in violation of the First Amendment.

The National Press Photographers Association and more than a dozen newspaper companies joined the committee in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals late Monday to back an advocacy group waging a series of legal battles over mustang roundups in Nevada.

Horseback Magazine photographer Laura Leigh and others “have a right to see what happens” during the roundups, the media groups said, urging the court to be “highly skeptical of assertions by the BLM that restrictions placed on media access were done for administrative convenience and/or to satisfy safety concerns.”

“People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing,” they said.

The 9th Circuit sent the case brought by Leigh’s advocacy group, Wild Horse Education, back to U.S. Judge Larry Hicks in Reno last year to determine if the BLM limits are constitutional.

Hicks ruled in 2011 that a balancing of the interests of the agency and public access to a roundup in Nevada didn’t warrant granting an injunction to block the gathers. But a three-judge panel of the appellate court ruled he failed to determine whether those restrictions violated First Amendment protections.

“When the government announces it is excluding the press for reasons such as administrative convenience, preservation of evidence, or protection of reporters’ safety, its real motive may be to prevent the gathering of information about government abuses or incompetence,” Appellate Judge Milan Smith Jr. wrote in the 18-page opinion in February 2012.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said Tuesday that the agency had no comment on the latest filing.

Agency officials testified at a hearing earlier this year that they do their best to provide public access to the roundups and temporary holding of the animals and denied Leigh’s claims she was singled out to be kept away from the mustangs.

The National Press Club, Nevada Press Association, Reno-Gazette Journal, The Seattle Times Company, the Las Vegas-Review Journal’s owner Stephens Media and others joined in the new brief arguing that journalists routinely face far more dangerous assignments, especially at war. They say reporters should have the same unrestricted access to public rangeland as they do to battlefields.

BLM’s concerns are “speculative at best and at worst are overly broad and ambiguous, often arbitrarily and capriciously chilling visual journalists’ ability to cover matters of public concern,” they said. CONTINUED….

Read the rest of the story at The Bend Bulletin

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Arlene

    The BLM is paid by the American People to solely protect and preserve our Mustangs any verience from this Sole Goal is Illegal !!!!And is Criminal according to the Law!!!

    September 18, 2013
  • Jan Schultz

    The “journalist” who filed this case only wants her access so she can publish photos which will cause her enablers to dig deeper. She could care less about her rights or those of others as witnessed by her shoving her way in front of others at the roundups. And of her taking up an invite into the Reno rodeo to sit in the Past Presidents booth taking action photos while others had their cameras taken. It was a lucky shot from a phone camera that revealed the abuses happening to the sorrel horse just below the President’s Box. Abuses which went unreported by the “journalist” who filed this lawsuit.

    September 18, 2013
  • mary Gardner

    Save the horses no matter what!

    September 18, 2013
  • Nancy Albin

    We need to stand together to fight for our rights as well as the voicless the Wild Horses are being i can’t even think of a word bad enough, We the people are being robbed of our rights as well because this is our country & what we want to happen to The American Wild Horses is not being even acknowledged at all not to mention we are paying for it because we cannot stop paying our bills or taxes to survive so they have us by the b—- so to speak Blm isnt doing what they were put in our gov. for!!! they are going against the American public WE Need to BE Heard!!!!

    September 19, 2013