The Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists applauds the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ recent decision to affirm the public’s right to access onboard Metro Transit bus video — in a case brought by local TV station KSTP. KSTP has been engaged in important work to preserve the public’s right to open data. We hope that the Metropolitan Council, which is in charge of Metro Transit, makes the decision to turn over the video KSTP has requested, rather than further appeal the case.
“Open access to records and other information is crucial to good government. We were disappointed when Metro Transit tried to hide this clearly public data and are pleased that the Minnesota courts agree,” said Jonathan Kealing, president of MNSPJ. “Bravo to KSTP for committing the resources to pursue this case until they get the information that the public so rightly deserves.”
The Met Council has argued that the requested video cannot be released because it wants to protect the privacy of its bus drivers, even though the video is from a public setting where passengers themselves can legally take their own video. KSTP says it wants the video to help answer questions about important news events that include a bus driver inexplicably driving off the road and another bus driver who reportedly left his bus and assaulted a bicyclist.
“Because the video recordings were maintained for a variety of purposes, and not solely because the bus drivers were government employees, they are public data,” Judge Margaret H. Chutich wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel that heard the case.
We couldn’t agree more.