A proposed law HR 589 in Iowa is the latest effort by a state legislature aimed at preventing investigative journalists from reporting on farm practices. As Cody Carlson explains in The Atlantic, "HF 589 (PDF), better known as the "Ag Gag" law, criminalizes investigative journalists and animal protection advocates who take entry-level jobs at factory farms in order to document the rampant food safety and animal welfare abuses within. In recent years, these undercover videos have spurred changes in our food system by showing consumers the disturbing truth about where most of today's meat, eggs, and dairy is produced. Undercover investigations have directly led to America's largest meat recalls, as well as to the closure of several slaughterhouses that had egregiously cruel animal handling practices. Iowa's Ag Gag law -- along with similar bills pending in other states -- illustrates just how desperate these industries are to keep this information from getting out."
As a work-around to the obvious freedom of speech problems caused by censuring public scrutiny over agriculture, safety, and public health, this latest version of the legislation would make it illegal to make a false statement on a job application in the agricultural sector. Thus, if asked the question, "Are you a journalist?", undercover reporters would be legally obliged to say yes.