Editorial boards argue against bill that would ban cameras in courtrooms

Newspaper editorial boards are speaking out against a bill that would ban cameras in courtrooms. 

“Let courts decide on rules on cameras in Minnesota courtrooms,” the Star Tribune’s editorial board argued this week. While the bill’s author is touting the legislation as necessary to spare the victims of crimes, the board pointed out that “Minnesota’s rules governing use of cameras in the courtroom already bar video recording and photography of all but the sentencing and post-guilty plea proceedings in criminal cases. Recording of witness testimony is disallowed.”

“Those rules,” the board argued, “have been painstakingly developed by the courts with much testing and public input.”

Another excerpt:

Minnesota’s courts have been uncommonly cautious about cameras in the courtroom. The Pew Charitable Trusts reported that as of 2012, all 50 states allowed recording of at least some courtroom proceedings. Minnesota then was still limiting cameras to civil proceedings, and then only with a judge’s consent.

It’s telling that supporters of the bill at Wednesday’s hearing offered no evidence of ill effects from the 35-some other states that have fewer restrictions than Minnesota. (The Minnesota Newspaper Association, of which the Star Tribune is a member, testified in opposition to Knoblach’s bill.)

Read the full editorial here.

The Mankato Free Press, too, cautioned against the bill, showing how having cameras in the courtrooms had allowed the paper to get to the “truth narrative” of several stories.

“These were powerful images,” the board said, “that allow the public to judge how justice was delivered in a public court of law funded by taxpayers. That taxpayers should be denied this information runs contrary to the rules of self-governance.”

The editorial continues:

[Rep. Jim] Knoblach argued if cameras are allowed in courts, victims of sex trafficking would forever have to see their testimony replayed on the Internet. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. The rules don’t allow victims to be photographed or filmed. It’s prohibited.

It’s troubling that Knoblach continues to give credence to these false premises when they are so far removed from reality.

We believe photographs, as they say, are worth a thousand words and create a more complete picture of a different kind of truth that comes once a verdict has been rendered.

Any attempt to deny citizens a method for evaluating how their government works is a strike against self-governance and should be fought with vigor.

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