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Contentious Texas Bill Puts Civil Liberties on the Chopping Block

A bill that would restrict the rights of citizens and essentially put all civil liberties at risk was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House Bill 2918, which was introduced by state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would make it illegal for private citizens to photograph or record the police within 25 feet of them.

“The bill attempts to usurp citizens of the ability to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions by negating people’s ability to create an accurate and impartial record of police interaction,” The Free Thought Project reported.

According to Chron.com, only radio and television stations licensed by the FCC, newspapers that qualify under specific Texas legal code (section 2051.044) and magazines that are published at regular intervals would be allowed to record police, disqualifying private citizens and Internet-based sites as “news media.”

In addition to trampling on the rights of private citizens, the bill also goes against legal precedent set by a case in 2011, in which an appeals court found that citizens are allowed to record public officials as “an exercise of First Amendment liberties.”

Villaba took to Twitter to defend his bill against critics, claiming that his bill “just asks filmers to stand back a little so as not to interfere with law enforcement.” But not everyone is buying it. Big Jolly Politics blogger David Jennings tweeted directly at Villaba, “What in the hell are you thinking? Holy crap dude, you need to pull this bill down. Embarrassing.”

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