RTDNA calls for broadcast coverage of Missouri governor’s felony trial

March 23, 2018 01:00

RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force – joined by a number of local and national news organizations – has filed a Motion for Pre-Trial Conference in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis City seeking to persuade the judge to allow broadcast coverage of Missouri Gov. Eric R. Greitens’ upcoming felony trial.
 
Greitens, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking nude and/or semi-nude photos of a woman with whom he was having an extra-marital affair, without her knowledge or consent, in 2015, before he assumed office. It has also been alleged that Greitens threatened to distribute the photos if the woman revealed the existence of their affair, although Greitens has denied that accusation.
 
The governor is scheduled to stand trial beginning May 14. The prosecutor in the case, State of Missouri vs. Eric R. Greitens, opposes the presence of cameras in the courtroom.
 
In its motion filed March 23, RTDNA and its partners – spearheaded by Meredith Corp., which owns the St. Louis television station, KMOV, that broke the story leading to the governor’s charges – state, in part:
 
Movants seek a conference with the Court to discuss the request for camera and audio coverage, and ways in which it can be managed to address the various interests of the Court, the parties, and the public.  They can discuss and demonstrate, for example, ways that cameras and audio equipment can be made unobtrusive, limitations that can be made on particular kinds of activities, and management of media coverage in ways that are least disruptive to the courtroom, while meeting the media’s need for accessing and reporting information about the case.   In other high-profile cases, protocols have been established and successfully implemented regarding the number of cameras, the use of audio, whether any transmission is live or delayed, and limitations on what may (and may not) be recorded.
 
“For decades, RTDNA has fought for the public’s right, and need, to know what is occurring in local, state and federal courtrooms across the land. The best way to achieve such transparency is for broadcast and digital journalists to be allowed to use the best tools of their trade, namely cameras, microphones and computers,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director.
 
“It’s hard to imagine a more important type of case where such openness is needed, and demanded by the public, than the felony trial of the governor of a state,” he added.
 
On March 5, RTDNA spoke out forcefully after learning that Greitens’ first three court proceedings following his indictment had been held with no, or very little, notice to the news media. It also demanded that a special Missouri House of Representatives committee formed to look into the charges against Greitens conduct its investigation “with full openness and transparency.”
 
Shortly after the committee received RTDNA’s admonition, it held its first investigative session behind locked doors at a police station near the Missouri State Capitol. Black plastic was placed to cover the windows, so reporters, photojournalists and members of the public could not see what was transpiring. An armed guard was stationed outside the committee’s meeting room.
 
“It is quite peculiar to me that in Missouri, which has the official nickname of the ‘Show-Me State,’ legislative and criminal investigators oppose actually showing the people of their state what is occurring relative to the felony charges now pending against their governor,” Shelley said.
 
In addition to RTDNA and Meredith, the entities signing on to the Motion for Pre-Trial Conference were:
  • The Associated Press
  • CNN
  • Gannett Company, Inc.
  • Multimedia KSDK, LLC
  • NBCUniversal Media
  • The E.W. Scripps Company
  • Tribune Media Company
 
RTDNA formed the nonpartisan Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats against press freedom in America. Reach out to RTDNA by emailing pressfreedom@rtdna.org.