7/1/2016 – Orlando Sentinel
Several news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, have sued to get access to the audio recordings of hundreds of 911 calls made during the June 12 attack on the Pulse nightclub. The city has released edited transcripts of some calls and other documents, but not the recordings. The FBI has asked law enforcement agencies to reject records requests. We asked one of Florida’s top open government advocates, First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen, why the media — and the foundation, also a party to the lawsuit — should pursue their legal effort. Excerpts follow.
Q: Why is it important for news organizations to have the audio recordings? Aren’t transcripts good enough?
A: There are all sorts of things that are included in a 911 tape that are not included in a transcript. The tenor of the voice, for example. Background noise — what’s going on in the background? How is the 911 operator responding – is she responding appropriately?
Q: What’s important about the additional information from a recording as far as the public is concerned?
A: Because it gives you additional information as to what was going on in the building at the time. … One of the unanswered questions is why the three-hour delay from the time law enforcement first responded [to Pulse] … before they came in through the back wall. There could be a lot of information available on those audiotapes that helps explain that three hours. And this is information, again, that would not come across on a transcript — particularly an edited transcript. This is not just confusing for everyone. It’s of deep, serious concern … There are so many unanswered questions, and these are questions that, frankly, foster fear in many people.