The constitution establishes “freedom of the press,” meaning that journalists have the right to report and disseminate information without government censorship. And in the age of social media, where anyone can disseminate information to a mass audience, civil liberty encompasses more than traditional journalists for television networks or newspapers. For example, if you`re a social justice advocate tweeting a live public rally, no one can stop you. Any form of government interference would also violate the First Amendment clause that prohibits the government from “restricting free speech.” However, if you believe, intentionally or unintentionally, that a group has blocked your access to public discussions, you can take legal action in district court. With the help of lawyers, you would use state laws and jurisprudence to explain how or to what extent the company ignored transparency requirements. And since many Minnesota government agencies videotape their sessions, whether open or not, you can use these images as evidence to support your case. Various state laws, including the Public Meetings Act, require public institutions to publish their meeting schedules and document what happens when they meet. MinnPost Photo by Peter Callaghan, the state court of appeals ruled in 1988 that the open meeting regulations did not belong to a specific advisory committee set up by the University of Minnesota board of trustees to help choose a new president. But especially in the case of the Upper Port Terminal Planning Committee, the rules are clear. A number of bylaws govern the group, which the Minneapolis City Council created last spring to increase public input to the massive redevelopment project. And the guidelines explicitly state that committee meetings “shall be open to the public, subject to the requirements of the Minnesota Open Meeting Act.” In Walker`s experience, people who violate Minnesota`s open session law generally don`t have the wrong motivations.

For example, some groups try to block public access because they want to protect the privacy of job applicants. “They come from a good place,” she said. “[There is] a lack of understanding. In addition, the state`s Recordings Act allows anyone to record and share audio recordings of conversations — whether in person or over the phone — with the consent of at least one member of the conversation. This means that the person making the recording, who could be a journalist, can act as an affirmative party and legally record public gatherings without the consent of another person. First, make sure the law applies to the meeting you want to attend. This means that public bodies must give everyone access to files, documents, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets or other documents that groups use at public meetings, unless the data contains sensitive or classified data. Entities must also document their decisions and votes. But given my experience as a local MinnPost government reporter at the Upper Harbor terminal meeting — where the heads of the Upper Harbor collaborative planning committee called on me and another reporter to stop our work — and countless other confrontations between Minnesota officials and media, it`s clear that government groups sometimes test access laws. If or when you feel you need to assert your rights as I did, here`s a guide to help you: Fact: There is no remedy in the OML that overrides or annuls acts or decisions of a public entity made during an illegal assembly.

Penalties for violating the OML are court-imposed fines and, in some cases, loss of function. In addition, no government agency investigates violations of the OML or enforces the law. All executions must be carried out through the judicial system. In other words, if a local elected body, school board, government agency or government-appointed citizens` group organizes the meeting, the law probably applies to them. “We want government officials to do business. in an open manner,” said attorney Leita Walker, who has represented local media outlets including MinnPost. “When people think they`re behind closed doors, they say things. in a way they wouldn`t say publicly. Fact: The MLO requires the Board to establish a schedule of regular meetings and to keep it at its main offices. If the committee changes the time or location from the regular meeting schedule, this must be announced in advance. Leita WalkerBut there are some exceptions to the law. Government-sponsored groups can meet privately if they want to discuss open law enforcement investigations; Employment contracts; ongoing litigation; classified or sensitive information (including the identity of certain victims of crime); and the performance of a government employee, among other scenarios.

But here you could cross the line; Minnesota law does not guarantee the public the right to express themselves at all public meetings. Assembly organizers may allow the public to comment on a case-by-case basis and, where they do, they establish their own rules, including the maximum length of time speakers may testify. In addition to face-to-face meetings, the Open Meeting Act applies to videoconferences or conference calls involving members of government agencies. And threads between members that involve discussions or votes can also be considered “virtual meetings” that violate transparency requirements, according to the Ministry of State Administration, which issues opinions on the law that are not binding but carry weight in court proceedings.