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Citizens can tape government meeting, Attorney General finds

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Citizens can tape government meeting, Attorney General finds11/20/95 MISSOURI--City councils in Missouri may not prohibit citizens from videotaping open meetings,…

Citizens can tape government meeting, Attorney General finds

11/20/95

MISSOURI–City councils in Missouri may not prohibit citizens from videotaping open meetings, the state’s attorney general declared in late September.

The opinion by Attorney General Jeremiah Nixon came in response to a letter from state Senator Harry Wiggins (D-10th Dist.) requesting an interpretation of Missouri’s open meetings law.

Missouri’s open meetings law does not address whether citizens attending an open meeting of a public governmental body may record the meeting by audiotape or videotape, but the statute’s declaration section calls for “liberal construction” of the law in favor of openness.

Nixon noted that at least four other states have laws that specifically provide for the audio or video recording of open meetings. He cited opinions from New York state courts stating or implying that prohibitions on unobtrusive audiotape or videotape recording of public meetings run afoul of the state’s open meetings act.

Concluding that the meetings in question may not be closed to audio or video recording devices, Nixon observed that every governmental body should “formulate reasonable guidelines for the videotaping of its proceedings.”

A Tennessee attorney general opinion issued only one week after Nixon’s opinion declares that a prohibition on cameras in city board meetings is permissible under both the First Amendment and Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act. (Mo. A.G. Opinion Letter No. 151-95)