Two Ohio state senators have proposed a bill that would prohibit the broadcasting of 911 telephone calls and levy a $10,000 fine for infractions.
The Society of Professional Journalists wrote a letter to the bill co-sponsors urging them to reconsider the proposed measure, saying it would diminish the media’s ability to report on breaking events.
“If audio recordings are banned from the public airwaves then it will be virtually impossible for citizens to hear how calls are being handled and effectively hold emergency response centers accountable,” the letter said. “Ohio courts traditionally have ruled in favor of disclosure of 911 tapes for all to hear for good reason — it ensures the public trust in its institutions regarding the safety and welfare of citizens.”
The bill’s proponents have argued that it would protect the identity of individuals placing emergency calls, but SPJ pointed out in its letter that identifying information would will be available in written transcripts.