North Carolina’s ‘ag-gag’ statute violates First Amendment, chills newsgathering

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On Sept. 3, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 21 media organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting efforts to challenge the constitutionality of North Carolina’s ag-gag law, which, like other similarly designed laws deemed unconstitutional, punishes the disclosure of information about agricultural facilities and other properties to members of the news media.

The case concerns North Carolina General Statute Section 99A-2, commonly known as an ag-gag law, which the media coalition argues violates the First Amendment rights of journalists by not only interfering with one’s ability to record audiovisuals within an employer’s premises and “using the recording to breach the person’s duty to the employer,” but also by penalizing speech based on its content, known as a content-based restriction.

The media coalition argues in its brief that the law chills constitutionally protected reporter-source communications, as “whistleblowers may seek to disclose information about the facilities where they work in order to bring issues of public concern to light, and the news media, in turn, wants to report on such information.”

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