May 7, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

NASHVILLE – More than 33,000 ACLU supporters nationwide have signed a petition requesting that Governor Bill Haslam veto Tennessee’s “Ag Gag” legislation because it unconstitutionally chills the free speech of citizens and journalists seeking to expose animal cruelty.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee delivered the petition to the governor today.

“Across the country people are watching Tennessee in the hopes that Governor Haslam stands up for the First Amendment rights of citizens and journalists to document animal abuse without fear of criminalization,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director.  “If the governor vetoes Tennessee’s unconstitutional ‘Ag Gag’ legislation, it could impact other states nationwide considering similar measures.”

SB 1248/HB 1191 requires that anyone taking photographs and video recordings of livestock abuse turn these over to law enforcement within 48 hours or face criminal charges and fines.

The petition states:

To Governor Bill Haslam,

The "Ag-Gag" legislation (SB 1248/ HB 1191) does nothing to prevent cruelty to animals. Even worse, it criminalizes average citizens and journalists who witness and document abuse.

Please protect our constitutional right to free speech and freedom of the press. Veto the "Ag-Gag" legislation this week.

Late last month, ACLU-TN also sent Governor Haslam a letter urging him to veto the “Ag Gag” measure, citing concerns that it targets constitutionally-protected recordings, not the act of abusing livestock.  The legislation’s reporting requirement could also significantly chill constitutionally-protected freedom of the press, making it difficult for journalists and filmmakers to conduct long-term investigations into animal cruelty that could ultimately help end livestock abuse.

The more than 33,000 petition signatures to date include approximately 350 from Tennessee.  The number of petition signers continues to grow online here.

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