Soviet-Style Courtroom Censorship: “It’s Just Protocol”

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During the Soviet era, foreign journalists and tourists would frequently have their cameras confiscated by the KGB, a practice that remains quite common in contemporary police states – including the one being consolidated here in the United States.

“I was at the local courthouse just now for the court appearance of Hope Solo, the U.S. soccer player charged with domestic violence,” a Seattle-area reporter and LRC reader informed me. In the courtroom one of the officers there told everyone there no photography was allowed, nor video or audio recording, and he would confiscate cell phones if he felt they were recording or photographing Solo. A coworker of mine came to take photos and was outside the courtroom when the officer explained the rules, as she was trying to get a photo of Hope Solo as she arrived. After my coworker came into the courtroom when Solo appeared I told her she couldn’t take photos in there and needed to go to an area in the back with a wall and glass window, where other media persons were photographing and recording. My coworker walked over there with her camera and the officer immediately followed her there.”

The reporter’s colleague, it should be emphasized, had not taken a photograph, and was in compliance with the court’s instructions. But this didn’t deter the officer from pursuing her, assaulting her, and stealing her camera.

Without a word, the officer seized the camera “and walked back into the courtroom,” the reporter relates. “When [his colleague] said she hadn’t taken any photos he said `I know’ and walked away. The Seattle Times photographer next to her told both of us it was the first time in his career he had seen a law enforcement officer confiscate a reporter’s camera in a courtroom.”

As was the case in Soviet Russia, only State-authorized purveyors of officially approved content (somehow the word “journalist” seems inapposite) are permitted to make records of judicial proceedings in Seattle, and elsewhere in the American soyuz.

“Apparently there is a `pool’ in which only State-approved media persons are allowed to take photos, one videographer and one photographer and the photos get sent out through the wire,” the reporter points out.

“Putting the legality of any of this rule aside, the young officer behaved like a mindless drone,” continues the correspondent. “Unless he had no observational skills he might have noticed she was not in the courtroom at the time, as there were only a handful of news people, or he could have simply told her when he spoke to her about the rule and asked her not to take photos rather than stealing her camera. When my coworker said it was unnecessary for him to be so rude he said `it’s just protocol.’”

“Apparently being an uncivil thug is now protocol for someone whose average pay in Kirkland is $74,000,” concludes the justifiably disgusted and admirably candid reporter. “You think with all that money they could afford to hire someone to teach them manners.”

6:23 pm on June 23, 2014
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