Below the Fold

President Trump’s Plans for Libel Laws

President Trump’s Plans for Libel Laws

President Trump and his team want to ‘open up’ libel laws. The goal: to make it easier to sue media organizations for unfavorable coverage. But there is little that the President can actually do to change the libel laws. There is no federal law on libel. State laws control libel, and all such laws are subject to stringent First Amendment protections for the press and other speakers that the Supreme Court has imposed through cases such as the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision in 1964. However, threats to loosen the libel laws is noteworthy as part of a larger effort to criticize the press and attack its credibility.

March 21, 2018 Below the Fold, Libel
The Limits of Transparency and FOIA Under Trump

The Limits of Transparency and FOIA Under Trump

Transparency is often an attractive buzzword for new administrations, but following through on open access has proven difficult. President Obama’s record on transparency and the federal  Freedom of Information Act was less than stellar. In the opening months of his term, President Trump has shown a similar wariness in allowing private citizens to access public records. Activists are challenging this resistance on the streets and in the courts. As we ready for Sunshine Week 2018, we look at the the successes and setbacks of FOIA.

March 14, 2018 Below the Fold, FOIA, News Gathering
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary: The White House is Wrong. A Free Press Is ‘The People’

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on March 8, 2018, in the Austin American-Statesman, and then Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.   _________________________________________________________________________________ An angry U.S. president feels hounded by the news media and is infuriated and discouraged with the intense and personal criticism of his domestic and international policies. I[Read More…]

March 12, 2018 Access, Below the Fold, Press
United States Supreme Court Building

Knight First Amendment Institute: From the Heckler’s Veto to the Provocateur’s Privilege

Reprinted with Permission From Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University Emerging Threats series invites leading thinkers to identify and grapple with newly arising or intensifying structural threats to the system of free expression. “It is now widely believed,” Frederick Schauer observes in a new essay, “that restricting the speaker on account of the actual or predicted hostile and potentially violent reaction[Read More…]

March 2, 2018 Below the Fold, Offensive Speech, Speech
Ballard Spahr: Arizona Court of Appeals Declares Trial Court’s Media Restrictions Unconstitutional

Ballard Spahr: Arizona Court of Appeals Declares Trial Court’s Media Restrictions Unconstitutional

Reprinted with Permission from Ballard Spahr The Arizona Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion late last month reaffirming the strict requirements for limiting the media’s ability to disseminate public information and strongly cautioning trial courts against imposing prior restraints in all but the most exceptional circumstances. The case arose as a result of the high-profile capital murder trial of John Michael[Read More…]

February 27, 2018 Below the Fold, Prior Restraints
J3NE4D Ohio, USA. 19th Apr, 2017. Robert Murray, the 77-year-old founder and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, talks in his office in St. Clairsville in Ohio, United States, 19 April 2017. The coal industry in the state has set its hopes on president Donald Trump and fracking. Photo: Andreas Hoenig/dpa/Alamy Live News

Defamation Suit By Coal Baron Against John Oliver Dismissed

Coal magnate Robert Murray has a long history of suing the media – at least nine organizations at last count. He targeted HBO’s John Oliver and The New York Times claiming that both misrepresented safety at his coal mines and attacked him personally. He even asked for an emergency “gag order” against rebroadcast of Oliver’s segment arguing it was hurting business and threatening employees. A federal judge ruled that Murray’s case against Oliver should proceed in state court. But after the case was remanded,HBO and Partially Important Productions submitted motions to dismiss which were granted. Murray intends to appeal.

February 25, 2018 Below the Fold, Libel, Privacy, Speech
Gene Policinski & Lata Nott Commentary: School Walkouts In the Wake of ‘Parkland’ – Protected By The First Amendment or Not?

Gene Policinski & Lata Nott Commentary: School Walkouts In the Wake of ‘Parkland’ – Protected By The First Amendment or Not?

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment experts, Gene Policinski and Lata Nott, originally published this commentary on the Newseum blog, and have given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.   ____________________________________________________________________________ FAQ FOR STUDENT ACTIVISTS NEWSEUMED RESOURCES The national walkouts that students are currently organizing to call for new gun control legislation are commendable examples of “Generation Z” exercising its First[Read More…]

February 23, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary: Protect Journalists With The Same Laws That Protect All Of Us

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on the Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint. ___________________________________________________________________ I understand the motivation behind the just-proposed Journalist Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to attack those involved in reporting the news. The legislation comes at a time of particularly vocal attacks[Read More…]

February 9, 2018 Below the Fold, Threats
A liberty tree with effigies.

From Liberty Tree to Taking a Knee: America’s Founding Era Sheds Light on the NFL Controversy

Symbolic speech as a form of protest, like taking a knee at a football game while others stand for the National Anthem, enjoys a long history in America. It’s been a powerful form of political expression going back to the protests in the colonies in the 1760s against British oppression. Various forms of symbolic expression—liberty trees, liberty poles, effigies of hated politicians, even the use of the number 45—brought multitudes into the political sphere and was critical in building opposition to British rule. Much of this symbolic expression was controversial and even offensive but a powerful form of protest then and now.

January 25, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech, Symbolic Speech
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary: ‘Weakening’ Libel Laws Is Not The Right Tactic – For Anyone

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on the Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint. ___________________________________________________________________ Making it easier to sue people for libel is not a good idea — for our democracy in general, and even for President Trump and a few of his personal lawyers, in particular. Trump[Read More…]

January 18, 2018 Below the Fold