Yesterday, two journalists were arrested for taking pictures and filming a public meeting of the D.C. Taxi Commission. One of those journalists was Jim Epstein of Reason Magazine, and you can read his account here or watch his video of the event:
This is downright Soviet. If people don’t have the right to record public meetings of government officials, we are in danger of losing one of the bedrocks of republican government, which isn’t terribly healthy as it is. Radley Balko, who knows a thing or two about recording public servants, wryly notes that the cab drivers, who are mostly immigrants “from east Africa and the Middle East,” are outraged and therefore “seem to have a far better grasp of free expression and the need for transparency in government than the federal and city employees working in America’s capital city.”
Government transparency is not a sufficient condition for a corruption-free government, but it’s sure as hell a necessary one. And although this may seem to be a minor incident, government at the federal level has grown dramatically more opaque with, for instance, an explosion in the number of classified documents after 9/11. President Obama pledged to reverse this trend, but that promise has not yielded impressive results. We should not be surprised when local bureaucracies follow the lead of their federal overlords and do everything within their power to shield themselves from public scrutiny.