The organizers of most medical meetings allow members of the press to have unlimited access to their meetings. But every so often I'll run into a meeting where there are restrictions against photography (most frequently) and against audio recording (less frequently).
I think there's little justification for any of these restrictions; if reporters are allowed to be present, they should be allowed to do their jobs as long as they don't disrupt the meeting.
At the recent annual meeting of the American Psychological Association a member of the press office staff apparently attempted to enforce a silly rule against a reporter from Democracy Now!: a 10-minute limit on recording during the session. The APA was debating a resolution on the participation of psychologists in military torture.
Science writer Norman Bauman chronicled what happened in a post on the nasw-talk mailing list, which is maintained by the National Association of Science Writers. With Mr. Bauman's permission, I'm quoting his message in full:
Amy Goodman, broadcast producer of DemocracyNow!, had a showdown with theAmerican Psychological Association's PR department this weekend, when theyordered her to stop recording a session about psychologists participating inmilitary torture.She refused to stop, and the PR department threatened to call security.Goodman publicly announced to the audience that the APA leadership wasrefusing to let her record, and asked the members whether they wanted her tocontinue recording. As you can hear on the recording, the audienceoverwhelmingly wanted her to record, because they wanted their debate to bedisseminated to the public. Someone made a motion, and they voted to let hercontinue recording.The APA meeting this weekend in San Francisco debated a resolution, which anAPA committee had approved, on the participation of psychologists inmilitary interrogations. 6 members of the 10-member committee worked for themilitary. Dissident members said that ethics code has a loophole whichpermits torture -- if there is a conflict between the ethics code and a lawor military regulation, a psychologist can follow the law or regulation.The APA PR department had limited Goodman's taping of the session to 10minutes, and tried to stop her when she ran over 10 minutes.The APA prohibited her from recording some sessions at all, but she recordedthem anyway.The APA is the last medical professional organization to let its membersparticipate in torture. The American Medical Association and AmericanPsychiatric Association declared that it was unethical for their members toparticipate in torture.Here's the transcript:AMY GOODMAN: Not long after the town hall meeting had begun, the APA'spublic affairs officer approached Democracy Now! and told us to stopfilming. She said we could only tape ten minutes and that we had passed ourtime limit. I got on the microphone and told the people gathered at themeeting what was happening.AMY GOODMAN: Excuse me, just [inaudible] a point of procedure. We're toldthat reporters are only allowed to record for ten minutes, and PamelaWillenz of the APA said that she will call security on us now, because we'regoing to be recording for more than ten minutes. So I was wondering if therecould be any sense of the meeting, or a rationale, since this is a town hallmeeting, for not being allowed to record for more than ten minutes.AUDIENCE MEMBER: We want to vote.UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Can we vote to allow recording at the town hallmeeting? Can we all vote to allow recording?AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes.UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Can we vote to allow recording?UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: We want the press to witness this.UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Can everyone who approves of allowing the reporters torecord please raise your hand?UNIDENTIFIED MAN: OK, folks, the recording will continue through the session###I think this is a good example of how to deal with organizations that won'tlet you cover a legitimate news event of public importance.I've been in situations like this, where people threated to have mearrested, and I stood up to them. They backed down.In the analysis of how the news media failed us in Iraq, one White House TVreporter said that it's hard to stand up in the White House press room andchallenge the President of the United States.Journalists have a privileged position in the U.S., because we have a roleset out for us in the Constitution. We can have a good time, and lots ofperks, writing interesting stories, but in exchange we have an obligation tosupply our readers with the information they need. A lot of journalistsfailed their job, because they were too timid to stand up to authority whenit was their responsibility to do so. As a result 500,000 Iraqis died.DemocracyNow! is broadcast (in New York, anyway) on the radio at 9am EST,but you can see it on the Internet. Theyalso make a full transcript available in the afternoon. I recommend that everyone read the transcript or listen to it, and in particular listen to Goodman's confrontation with the APA.The next time you have to stand your ground, you can remember how Goodmandid it.I previously said that I think Goodman is the best interviewer in the U.S.,since the demise of the Playboy Interview. Her best interview, I think, washer interview with Bill Clinton . She was the only reporter I can think of who asked him about solid issues.Goodman was once reporting on a peaceful demonstration in East Timor, whenthe (U.S.-supported) military opened fire, killing several demonstrators,and beat her and another reporter to the ground with rifle butts. So shedoesn't have any trouble standing up to Presidents of the United States. Shewas in more combat than they were. [end of Norman Bauman's nasw-talk post]
What do you think? Are restrictions on recording or photography ever appropriate at medical meetings?