“The rules represent a galling assault on our freedom of speech and citizen’s rights to protect their health and environment. That’s downright un-American,” Michael Wall, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), wrote in a statement.
The laws, passed last year, make it illegal to cross private property to collect data on public lands. The National Press Photographers Association’s attorney Alicia Calzada claims that this is something which journalists must do regularly.
“It’s not uncommon for states to try to criminalize activities that involve reporting and raising awareness of issues related to food safety and animal welfare and that kind of thing. These are called ag gag laws,” Calzada told Wyoming Public Media.
In a joint statement about the lawsuit, the groups explained that the laws were crafted to deter the public from gathering information about environmental degradation to share with the federal government.
“The laws punish persons who gather information about land or resources and then communicate or plan to communicate that information to government agencies. The laws are written so expansively that they could even be interpreted to criminalize submission of photographs to the National Park Service from some popular tourist sites in the state such as the Grand Tetons, Devil’s Tower and Yellowstone National Park,” the statement alleges.
The group of organizations, ranging from PETA to the Center for Food Safety, allege that the laws have nothing to do with trespassing and are meant to stop whistleblowers from exposing any wrongdoing.
“This kind of law might seem less shocking in North Korea,” wrote professor Justin Marceau with the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver, who represents Western Watersheds Project and National Press Photographers Association.