Access

In Alabama Town, Media and Non-Residents Banned From Meetings

In Alabama Town, Media and Non-Residents Banned From Meetings

June 12, 2018: In Contradiction to Alabama Open Meetings Act, Paint Rock Bans Media And Non-Residents From Council Meetings The Jackson County Sentinel reported that the 200-person town of Paint Rock, Alabama is trying to ban members of the media and non-residents from attending Town Council meetings without prior approval of the members. The rules also say that recording meetings[Read More…]

Plaintiffs Unblocked By @realDonaldTrump; Justice Department Appeals Ruling

Plaintiffs Unblocked By @realDonaldTrump; Justice Department Appeals Ruling

President Trump blocked some of his critics on his Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump, prompting a lawsuit arguing that such action violated their First Amendment rights. The lawsuit raised questions about the use of social media sites by public officials. Clearly, a personal website of a public figure is not subject to First Amendment restrictions, and so the site operator can block users. But a site run by the government, or run by a public official for his public business, would likely be categorized as a limited public forum protected by the First Amendment. Officials would violate the First Amendment if they discriminated against posters because of their viewpoint. But is @realDonaldTrump a personal site or an official government site? That’s a key question. He started the account in 2009, when he was a private citizen, but now uses it to share policy statements and his views on public issues. On May 23, 2018, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Trump may not legally block users on Twitter because doing so violates a right to free speech; @realDonaldTrump unblocked the plaintiffs but not others who are blocked and the Justice Department is appealing the ruling. Meanwhile, other cases are percolating through the courts as well, with one to be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving a citizen who was blocked by a public official in Virginia from her Facebook account.

June 5, 2018 Access, Below the Fold, News Gathering
Ballard Spahr: First Amendment Bars Trump from Blocking Critics on Twitter, Court Rules

Ballard Spahr: First Amendment Bars Trump from Blocking Critics on Twitter, Court Rules

Reprinted with Permission from Ballard Spahr A federal judge has ruled that the First Amendment prohibits President Donald J. Trump from blocking Twitter users because of political disagreements. Last summer, seven individual plaintiffs—Twitter users who had been blocked from the President’s account, @realDonaldTrump, after tweeting criticism about the President or his policies—together with the Knight First Amendment Institute, sued Trump[Read More…]

May 24, 2018 Access, Below the Fold
EPA Bars Reporters from Several Outlets From Attending National Summit

EPA Bars Reporters from Several Outlets From Attending National Summit

May 23, 2018: Environmental Protection Agency bars select reporters from entering an event where Scott Pruitt, the agency’s chief, was speaking Reporters from CNN, The Associated Press, and E&E News were barred by the EPA from entering a national summit “of national priority,” while other reporters were allowed inside for Scott Pruitt’s opening remarks after having been invited by the agency the[Read More…]

May 23, 2018 Access, Press, Top Stories
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Reporters Persona Non Grata at White House & Other Executive Branch Agencies

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump often called out news organizations for what he said was irresponsible reporting and excluded some of their reporters from his rallies. After assuming office, the President and his staff have continued to limit the access of some news organizations, leading to a larger issue under the First Amendment. The larger question remains: Can reporters be barred from news conferences because the Trump administration objects to coverage?

May 23, 2018 Access, Below the Fold, News Gathering
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary: President’s Press Credential Threat Will Be ‘Trumped’ By The First Amendment

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on May 11, 2018, on the Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.           Donald Trump can fantasize all he wants about taking away White House press credentials from news outlets that he doesn’t like. It’s unpleasant for the journalists[Read More…]

President Trump Takes Fake News Accusations To New Level Tweeting Negative Coverage Equals Fake News

President Trump Takes Fake News Accusations To New Level Tweeting Negative Coverage Equals Fake News

Presidents make use of all forms of communication to get their message out to voters. No other President has so effectively used Twitter as President Trump who has called it his “own form of media” used to counter “fake news.” In his latest deluge, President Trump equates negative news coverage with “fake news” and threatens to revoke press credentials (again). The central role of the First Amendment is to protect the people in their writings about government affairs and government officials—and especially when it is negative, as that is when the government is most likely to try to punish writers. As James Madison wrote in his Virginia Report of 1800, freedom of the press protects the “right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.” 

May 14, 2018 Access, Fake News, Press, Threats, Top Stories
Trump Tweets Credentials of “Corrupt Media” Should Be Taken Away

Trump Tweets Credentials of “Corrupt Media” Should Be Taken Away

President Trump has referred many times to “fake news” as coverage of him or his administration that he believes to be wrong. On May 9, however, he wrote that “Fake News is working overtime” even in the face of “the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else…” Then he wrote that “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake).” The central role of the First Amendment is to protect the people in their writings about government affairs and government officials—and especially when it is negative, as that is when the government is most likely to try to punish writers. As James Madison wrote in his Virginia Report of 1800, freedom of the press protects the “right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.” Madison continued:  “Let it be recollected, lastly, that the right of electing the members of the government, constitutes more particularly the essence of a free and responsible government. The value and efficacy of this right, depends on the knowledge of the comparative merits and demerits of the candidates for public trust; and on the equal freedom, consequently, of examining and discussing these merits and demerits of the candidates respectively.”

May 11, 2018 Access, Press, Threats
Ballard Spahr: Cosby Case Highlights Role of Public Access to Court Records

Ballard Spahr: Cosby Case Highlights Role of Public Access to Court Records

Reprinted with Permission from Ballard Spahr The April 2018 criminal trial of iconic entertainer and “America’s Dad” Bill Cosby has ended with a guilty verdict. Rarely has the importance and power of public access to the courts—and the unique role of the media in securing access—been on such full display as during the more than 10 years of civil and[Read More…]

May 3, 2018 Access, Below the Fold
The Feeling of Being Watched Debuts at Tribeca Film Festival Highlighting the Need For FOIA And Open Records Access

The Feeling of Being Watched Debuts at Tribeca Film Festival Highlighting the Need For FOIA And Open Records Access

FAW attended the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival screening of the documentary of “The Feeling of Being Watched” which details the quest of Assia Boundaoui to uncover information on the FBI’s “Operation Vulgar Betrayal,” a wide-ranging pre-9/11 FBI counterterrorism investigation, conducted during the 1990s and 2000s, that aimed to track Middle Eastern terrorist funds but ended in sweeping surveillance of Muslim communities. Boundaoui pushes the government for transparency using FOIA and later suing the Department of Justice.

April 26, 2018 Access, FOIA, Top Stories