Montgomery County Livestream Ban Allowed to Continue


Federal Judge Eli Richardson will reportedly allow members of the Montgomery County government to go forward with a rule that bans anyone from livestreaming their county commission meetings.

This, according to the the Associated Press, which reported next week’s commission meeting is the first time members of the public may no longer livestream.

“Commissioner Jason Knight and two others have sued to overturn the ban. They unsuccessfully sought a restraining order to temporarily block the ban while the case works its way through the courts,” the AP said.

“In declining to grant the order, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson wrote that allowing the ban go into effect won’t cause the plaintiffs immediate and irreparable harm. The lawsuit alleges the ban is a violation of free speech and the First Amendment.”

As The Tennessee Star reported this month, Montgomery County commissioners’ decision might have a chilling effect and encourage other county governments in the state to pass similar laws.

But Commissioner Joe Smith, who supports the livestream ban, told The Star he and his colleagues only acted on Sheriff John Fuson’s security recommendations.

Smith said “large gathering spaces are a much higher target risk than being in public alone.”

County officials offer a YouTube channel that carries commission meetings slightly delayed from real-time. The channel also archives those meetings, Smith said.

The Commissioners’ resolution states that people who wish to use audio and recording devices will have their own designated area, Smith said.

Authorities will treat people who come to the commission chambers to livestream as any disruptive person, Smith said.

“They would be asked nicely to discontinue what they are doing,” Smith said.

“If they do not, then they would be escorted from the premises.”

Commissioner Joshua Beal, however, told The Star he opposed the resolution.

“Citizens in general have a distrust in our local elected officials, and this resolution does nothing to better that relationship. In fact, this has made it A LOT worse,” Beal wrote in an email.

“I have nothing but respect for our sheriff (as I do for all my fellow elected officials) and I trust his judgment when he says this is a security concern. My problem, however, is that I have yet to be briefed on our security protocol. Because of this, I do not know what the actual security issues are.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected] 






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