Two weeks ago on this page, we called attention to a news report of anti-Semitic comments made at a public meeting of Community Board 17 in Brooklyn. (Last week, we printed a statement from the NYS Assemblywoman representing the Assembly district containing CB 17.) As a follow-up to our original piece on the reported incident, The Jewish Press sent a reporter/photographer to cover last Wednesday’s CB 17 public meeting.
Although not required by the NY Open Meetings Law, our reporter identified himself and began taking pictures, whereupon he was asked to stop. When he refused, he was told he would have to leave and threatened with New York State Police action. So he left.
Several days after this episode, CB 17 issued a statement with the headline “Community Board 17’s Statement On Request Of Photographer To Leave General Board Meeting.” In the statement, CB 17 explained that “the photographer entered and took photos without the permission of the board nor those in attendance,” and failed to identify himself. This, “resulted in a disruptive environment, which hindered the meeting’s progression. Subsequently, the photographer was asked to leave.”
The statement acknowledges that CB meetings are open to the public and “[a]dvance notification of press attendance for these meetings is not required… however, if planning to film the session or bring a camera crew please contact the Board Office…. We will place a form on our website…that can be filled out stating your name, media affiliation and purpose of project.”
Yet the NY Open Meetings Law says that except for certain executive sessions, “Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public….” and “Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means.”
Seems to us that our rights were violated.