Josh Fox, the Academy Award-nominated director of Gasland (pictured), has been arrested in Washington DC while attempting to film a House Energy and Environment subcommittee hearing on Capitol hill, for a follow-up documentary.
Fox was arrested yesterday by Capitol Hill police after being refused permission to film a hearing linked to the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which was the subject of Gasland. Fox had applied for permission to film the hearing, but had not received a response.
Upon Fox’s arrival, committee Democrats forced two votes, firstly to allow him to film the hearing and secondly to recess the hearing for a week so that the director could obtain credentials. Republicans defeated both motions on a party line vote and, when Fox refused to pack up his camera and depart, had him arrested.
In a statement issued yesterday, the director said: “I was arrested today for exercising my First Amendment rights to freedom of the press on Capitol Hill.
“I was not expecting to be arrested for practicing journalism. Today’s hearing in the House Energy and Environment subcommittee was called to examine EPAs findings that hydraulic fracturing fluids had contaminated groundwater in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming. I have a long history with the town of Pavillion and its residents who have maintained since 2008 that fracking has contaminated their water supply.
“As a filmmaker and journalist I have covered hundreds of public hearings, including Congressional hearings,” the statement added. “It is my understanding that public speech is allowed to be filmed. Congress should be no exception. No one on Capitol Hill should regard themselves exempt from the Constitution.”
Condemnation for the arrest has been swift, with Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Magic Trip) Tweeting “Republicans trash first amendment,” and The Huffington Post – which has a video of the arrest – calling the incident “a stunning break with First Amendment policy.”
A statement issued by committee Republicans on the science committee’s website said: “‘Personnel providing coverage by the television and radio media shall be currently accredited to the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Galleries.
The individual removed was not accredited by the House Radio and TV Gallery and had refused to turn off his camera upon request by Capitol Police.”
In a statement, Capitol Police confirmed that Fox has been charged with “unlawful entry” and a court date has been set for February 15.