The student newspaper at Purdue University has filed a lawsuit against the University for denying the publication access to public records.
The ACLU of Indiana filed the suit on behalf of the Purdue Student Publishing Foundation, Inc. which publishes the Purdue Exponent. The paper has been trying to obtain copies of a video recording showing an Exponent photographer being pushed to the ground and shoved into a wall by campus police. The incident occurred after the Jan. 21 murder of Andrew Boldt in the basement of the Electrical Engineering building. According to the ACLU of Indiana, the photographer identified himself as a member of the press after he gained access to the building’s second floor, which had not been sealed off by police.
"Laws granting access to public records are referred to as 'sunshine laws' because they enable a free and independent press to shine a spotlight on the actions of officials charged with protecting the public interest," said Kelly Eskew, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney. "Purdue's arbitrary refusal to release the requested video stands in the way of those free press rights."
Management with the Exponent attempted several times to obtain copies of video recordings. The newspaper staff was allowed to view the recordings, but the university has refused public disclosure of the tapes.
"We are disappointed that Purdue has forced us to file a lawsuit to compel the university to release video footage that, by law, we believe should be available for anyone to see," said Purdue Exponent publisher and general manager Pat Kuhnle.
Purdue officials say the issue has already been considered
by the state's authority on public access with a ruling in their favor.
"The complaint challenges the conclusion of the Indiana Public Access Counselor, whose April 4 determination in favor of Purdue is attached to the complaint and is linked here," said Public Information Director Liz Evans. "As confirmed by the Public Access Counselor, Purdue has followed the requirements of the Access to Public Records Act.”
The suit was filed in Tippecanoe Superior Court Tuesday. Judge Thomas H. Busch will preside over the case.