Photographers defend first amendment rights at Palin panel
By Andrew Sheeler / Sun Star Reporter
Sarah Palin wasn’t the only topic of interest to emerge from the panel. The First Amendment was put to the test when panel organizers attempted to prohibit Sun Star photographers from taking pictures. Moderator Chris Coffman asked at the beginning of the panel that people refrain from using cameras to photograph or record the event. When Sun Star photographers Jesse Hoff and Jeremia Schrock arrived with cameras, a student assistant with the Women’s Center asked them not to take photos. Hoff explained that the First Amendment gave them the right to take pictures of a public event in a public place. Both photographers continued to take pictures.
After the panel, Women’s Center Director Kayt Sunwood visited The Sun Star office. Without introducing herself, Sunwood said panelist Jeanne Devon, a blogger from Anchorage, had received serious threats to her life and that her anonymity was absolutely necessary. Sunwood said that Devon had almost backed out of the panel discussion out of fears of being photographed and that she had insisted the event be camera-free. She apologized the same day, but continued to emphasize the severity of the threats Devon had received. Sunwood later stepped away from those comments, and said the words had been said in the heat of the moment.
Professor Sine Anahita said Sunwood came to the Sun Star office at Anahita’s request. Anahita said that she herself was not fond of having her picture taken and had asked Devon at the airport about whether Devon wanted to allow photos. Devon had opted not to. In a post-panel interview, Anahita called the photographers distracting and compared their taking of pictures to that of cellphones going off in the middle of class.
Anahita called the uproar surrounding the picture taking a “tempest in a tea kettle” and stressed that she wanted people to remember the panel for the discussion that took place and not what Devon and Sunwood called a misunderstanding.
When asked about it, Devon called the situation “a well-meaning miscommunication,” adding that the person who had asked Hoff and Schrock not to take photos was probably just being over-protective. She said she felt badly that “wires got crossed” and that she didn’t have any concerns about her picture being in the Sun Star paper. Devon has frequently criticized Sarah Palin on her AKMudflats blog for the near-total ban on cameras Palin has employed on a number of occasions.