Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nevada photojournalist sues BLM for access to wild horse roundups

A Nevada photojournalist says the federal government is implementing an unlawful prior restraint against her reporting by placing  restrictions on her access to wild-horse roundups and warehouse facilities. In a petition to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Laura Leigh, a photojournalist and correspondent for Horseback Magazine, alleges "in response to disliking her published subject and seeking to avoid further negative press,'' the Bureau of Land Management cut-off Leigh’s "close-up access to observe crucial moments of wild horse captures," and "singled out Ms. Leigh in punishment for her having publicly disseminated the videos and photos" of BLM activities," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports. To read Leigh's "Art and Horses" blog, go here.

A Nevada federal judge originally approved Leigh's petition for a temporary restraining order against the BLM on July 16, 2010. The court "affirmed Leigh's right to view wild-horse roundups on public lands, but allowed the bureau to continue a policy of gathering horses by helicopter," the committee reports. Leigh filed another suit July 23, 2010, challenging BLM's "helicopter policy and decision to gather on private lands, thereby precluding her access to gather information about the roundups," but the court denied that motion four days later. "In her petition to the Ninth Circuit, Leigh argued that the district court’s inaction is an effective denial of the requested relief; that such restrictions on the press are not permissible; and that a court should not apply mootness to forego review when conduct repeats, but ceases, before the court's review." (Read more)

UPDATE, June 3: The Reporters Committee has filed an amicus brief on Leigh's behalf.

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