Below the Fold

Newly printed  Detroit News newspapers run thru the printing presses at the newspapers printing plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan December 16, 2008. The Newspapers Partnership announced a plan to reduce home-delivery of the papers to three days a week and a push for their on-line editions.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook   (UNITED STATES)

Are Newsprint Tariffs Repressing The Free Press?

The U.S. International Trade Commission is considering whether to permanently institute a 30 percent tariff on newsprint from Canada, the largest source for US newspapers. In light of recent layoffs at the New York Daily News and many other newsrooms tapering their staff and product, how will this looming tariff threaten the operation and publication of newspapers of all sizes across the country?

August 6, 2018 Below the Fold, News Gathering, Press
Lata Nott, Executive Director of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center

Lata Nott: Does It Really Matter That Americans Don’t Know Exactly What The First Amendment Says?

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Lata Nott, originally published this op-ed on the Newseum blog and in local newspapers across the country, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.         The majority of Americans are supportive of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, but are also unaware of exactly what those rights are,[Read More…]

July 18, 2018 Below the Fold
Josephine Meckseper Flag. Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Creative Time.

Flag Art Installation At University of Kansas Did Not Sit Well With All Stripes, Including Governor

July 12, 2018: University of Kansas Removes Art Installation Of Altered U.S. Flag, Amid Criticism The University of Kansas removed an altered U.S. flag that was flying on campus as part of an art exhibit amid criticism from politicians, including the state’s governor. The flag, called “Untitled (Flag 2)” was part of the nationwide public art project “Pledges of Allegiance.” This flag was[Read More…]

Los Angeles Times Building (source: Wikipedia)

Judge Lifts Order On The Los Angeles Times To Alter News Story

The First Amendment has always been seen as providing, at a very minimum, freedom from censorship by the government or by a private party acting through an injunction issued by a judge. The Los Angeles Times will rely on this argument as it fights a court order that required it to take down part of a published piece on Saturday.

July 16, 2018 Below the Fold, Press, Prior Restraints
The Alarming Rise in Verbal and Physical Threats to the Press

The Alarming Rise in Verbal and Physical Threats to the Press

Many presidents have had contentious relationships with the press. President John Adams’ 1798 Sedition Act made publishing anything critical of the government illegal, President Theodore Roosevelt tried to sue the press for unfavorable coverage and other leaders have tried to control the flow of information. However, the animosity towards the press fostered by President Donald Trump many believe is unprecedented.

June 13, 2018 Below the Fold, Leaks, Threats
Jeff Sessions

Crackdown on Leakers Ramps Up With NYT Journalist Targeted in Leaks Investigation

Journalists often publish information taken from leaked classified documents. Does the First Amendment protect them from prosecution for doing so? The Supreme Court has not considered that exact question, but Bartnicki v. Vopper suggests that journalists would indeed be protected as long as they were innocent recipients of the information—that is, they did not participate in or encourage the illegal activity of leaking classified information. Under the Espionage Act of 1917, the government would have to prove that the journalists published with the intent to hurt the United States, a requirement that would likely be difficult to satisfy. The leakers, of course, do risk prosecution, and journalists can be ensnared in an investigation to discover the names of the confidential sources who provided the information to them. Aggressive prosecution of leakers began under President Obama – with the most famous case, Edward Snowden, still in hiding in Russia – and continues under President Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rumored to even be considering a lie detector test to ferret out leakers.

June 13, 2018 Below the Fold, Leaks, News Gathering
Can Elected Officials Block Critics On Their Social Media Pages?

Can Elected Officials Block Critics On Their Social Media Pages?

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
Supreme Court Hands Down Ruling in Masterpiece Cake Case

Supreme Court Hands Down Ruling in Masterpiece Cake Case

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jack C. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakeland, Colorado, who refused to design and create a wedding cake for a celebration of a same-sex marriage saying that a state commission violated the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom when it ruled against Phillips. Phillips had claimed that the creation of the cake is artistic expression protected by the First Amendment’s free speech and free exercise of religion clause. The couple and Colorado argued that Phillips’ work on the cake was not expressive conduct according to the law and that the state had a significant interest in preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation. “The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the decision. “The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”

States Rush to Pass Anti-Protestor Laws

States Rush to Pass Anti-Protestor Laws

America was born in the protests of 1765 to 1776. Large crowds assembled around liberty trees and liberty poles, hanging British officials in effigy, and thousands of people paraded through the streets of colonial towns voicing loud dissent against British taxes and other measures they considered oppressive. Today’s lawmakers seem much more squeamish about the right to assembly, which is now enshrined in the First Amendment. Reacting to the demonstrations that have taken place throughout the U.S. over the last few years, many states have moved to restrict public demonstrations by a variety of means. Some measures that are enacted into law will surely be tested in court as violations of the First Amendment.

June 1, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold
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