Newsman becomes newsmaker

 Burlington Free Press, June 17, 2012
Newsman becomes newsmaker
BARTON — Most people awaiting trial are
advised to lay low, say little. Chris
Braithwaite wrote a book while waiting for
his case to be heard. His lawyer has no
problem with it.Braithwaite is no ordinary defendant — and
that is one of the points he’d like to make
in court.

The 68-year-old with a face that is part
Santa Claus, part Jeremiah Johnson is a
journalist who went from covering the story
to being part of the story. Though he said
that’s not what he set out to do, he hopes
his case will carve out new ground for a
journalists’ right to be there when the
government is doing its business.

“The most direct effect the state can have
on our lives is to physically take us,”
Braithwaite said in a recent interview in the
back yard of his newspaper’s office. “That
moment demands coverage by us.”

Braithwaite was charged with trespassing
last Dec. 5 as he was covering a protest
against Green Mountain Power Corp.’s wind
turbine construction atop Lowell Mountain.
Six protesters were also charged.

Braithwaite had no more right to be on the
mountain that day than the protesters, the
prosecutor has argued in court papers.
Lawyers, and even media groups, say the

freedom of the press does not translate to
freedom from arrest.Braithwaite conceded. “The perceived
wisdom is I don’t stand a chance.”

Still, Braithwaite was surprised at this
arrest, surprised again that the charge has
not been dropped. Now, he and his lawyer,
Phil White, hope to make the case in the
courtroom that all sides — the protesters,
Green Mountain Power, the police and the
public — are better off if he’s allowed to
be there at the top of the mountain to tell
the story of the protesters meeting the
police.

Orleans County Deputy State’s Attorney
Sarah Baker has argued otherwise in court
papers, successfully fighting White’s
request to have the case dismissed.
Nothing in the state’s Constitution or case
law suggests that freedom of the press has
been extended to allow the media to enter
private property when they’ve not been
invited, even to report on government’s
action, Baker argued.

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One comment on “Newsman becomes newsmaker

  1. […] Also, state prosecutes journalist reporting the story for trespassing! […]

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