It’s a longstanding hazard of state-controlled economies, especially when newsprint or other essential supplies have to be brought in from abroad and are thus subject to foreign exchange or import regulations. This time the target is Nicaragua’s historic and now embattled newspaper La Prensa, published by the Chamorro family. “The government customs office has held up La Prensa’s imports of newsprint and ink since October, according to its editors. Nicaragua’s leading daily is now a skeletal eight pages – down from 36.” [Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post/Laredo Morning Times]
Last year following the Russian Facebook scandal the Maryland legislature passed a bill regulating newspapers (!) and other online ad platforms. Gov. Larry Hogan refused to sign it, citing First Amendment concerns. Now a federal court has agreed and blocked the law’s enforcement as an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of the press.
I write about the case at Cato. “Social media trickery is bad. Chipping away at First Amendment liberties to stop it is worse.”
- Fourth Circuit rejects gag order on parties and potential witnesses in North Carolina hog farm litigation [Eugene Volokh]
- Eighth Circuit, interpreting Missouri law’s obligation to register as “lobbyist,” leaves open possibility that requirement extends to unpaid lobbyists, also known as concerned citizens [Jason Hancock, Kansas City Star; Institute for Free Speech on Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission]
- “9 Months in Prison for Forging Court Orders Aimed at Vanishing Online Material” [Volokh] Per one account at least 75 fake court documents have been sent to Google as part of takedown efforts, including an order purporting to come from the UK Supreme Court [same]
- The accused pipe bomber had made online death threats against Ilya Somin, libertarian lawprof and friend of this site. Lessons to draw? [Cato Daily Podcast, more]
- Entanglement of press and state leads nowhere good: Canadian government to allocate C$600 million in subsidies to newspapers and legacy media [Stuart Thomson, National Post; earlier on press subsidies here, here; some Canadian background from 1983]
- Court: First Amendment doesn’t protect Comcast from bias charge over its decision not to carry block of black-owned TV channels [Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica]
Legally penalizing the circulation of “fake news,” misinformation and faulty rumor, newly popular in Europe especially as regards social media, is not a new idea at all. It’s a very old one, which again and again results in governments’ enshrining their particular version of orthodoxy as truth [Jacob Mchangama, Quillette]
Why do so many in the press despise Citizens United, a decision whose point is to protect First Amendment liberties? One factor may be that the decision undermines their own sector’s claims to specialness by making clear that press liberty is meant for everyone, not just for media professionals and their organizations. [Floyd Abrams, guest-blogging at Volokh]
“A judge on Long Island has ordered the Daily News to remove the name of a defendant in a civil lawsuit from our website.” To say that the New York newspaper is being uncooperative with Judge John Galasso’s order is an understatement: their defiant editorial prints the name of defendant Eric Lerner nine times in a single paragraph.
A Colorado state senator disparaged his hometown paper, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, as “fake news” (as well as “very liberal”). The publisher of the family-owned newspaper then responded with an editorial that struck a threatening tone: “see you in court.” [Corey Hutchins, Columbia Journalism Review]
More from Ken at Popehat to newspaper publisher: stop making things worse.
- In latest of string of courtroom losses for media, Raleigh News & Observer hit with nearly $6 million libel verdict [Corey Hutchins, CJR] Profile of Charles Harder, newly prominent attorney in suits against media [Hollywood Reporter]
- Following coverage of taco trademark dispute, lawyer demands takedown of image on news story [TechDirt] “California Supreme Court will decide: Can court order Yelp to take down defendant’s post, though Yelp wasn’t even a party to the lawsuit?” [Volokh]
- Theodore Boutrous: “I will represent pro bono anyone Trump sues for exercising their free speech rights. Many other lawyers have offered to join me.” [Ronald K.L. Collins, related chronology of Trump’s record of legal conflict with press]
- Familiar old war on porn re-outfits itself as new war on trafficking [Collins, Elizabeth Nolan Brown on so-called Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA)]
- Another where-are-they-now on copyright troll Prenda Law [Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica, see also on Hansmeier]
- “The ‘freedom of the press’ doesn’t give the media any special privileges — but it’s also not a redundancy” [Eugene Volokh]
Do you think Donald Trump is the first U.S. politico to menace publishers over bad coverage? Not even close. My new Cato piece cites a few examples from a depressingly long history. Plus: reprinted at Newsweek.
Bonus: Sen. Sherman Minton (D-Ind.) who put forth the remarkable proposal to make it “a crime to publish anything as a fact anything known to be false,” and who had led a Senate committee’s investigation of the Gannett newspaper chain over its (then) Republican-leaning politics, was later nominated by President Harry Truman to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served for seven years and became a leading exponent of judicial deference to the executive branch.
If you defend freedom of speech today, realize that “blasphemy” is its front line, in Paris and the world. …
Most of the prestige Western press dodged the running of the [Danish Mohammed] cartoons, and beneath the talk of sensitivity was often simple fear. As journalist Josh Barro noted today on Twitter, “Islamists have by and large succeeded in intimidating western media out of publishing images of Muhammad.” …
[On the modern European rise of laws against “defamation of religion” and related offenses]: One way we can honor Charb, Cabu, Wolinski, Tignous, and the others who were killed Wednesday is by lifting legal constraints on what their successors tomorrow can draw and write.
Also recommended, this thoughtful Ross Douthat column on blasphemy and religious offense. Douthat is not enthusiastic about blasphemy generally, but makes an exception for instances where it is done in defiance of grave dangers. “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said … it’s precisely the violence that justifies the inflammatory content. … if publishing something might get you slaughtered and you publish it anyway, by definition you *are* striking a blow for freedom, and that’s precisely the context when you need your fellow citizens to set aside their squeamishness and rise to your defense.”
“So many of Charb’s fellow journalists have long been aware of these threats, and have said nothing,” writes Mark Hemingway in the Weekly Standard. Jytte Klausen, author of a book on the Danish cartoon episode, in Time: “Over the past five years, [the editors of Charlie-Hebdo] have been left alone standing in defense of press freedom.” And Alex Massie at The Spectator:
[The 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie] was a test too many people failed back then. We have learned a lot since then but in many ways we have also learned nothing at all.
In 2012, Rushdie wondered if any publisher would have the courage to endorse The Satanic Verses if it were written then. To ask the question was to sense the depressing answer. They would not.
As for the present day, CNN, NYT, AP, NBC, ABC, the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, and the CBC, will *not* be running Charlie-Hebdo cartoons, though a number of American publications did so, including Daily Beast, Vox, and Bloomberg. No UK paper on Thursday morning runs the cartoons on its cover — though the Berliner-Zeitung in Germany publishes a full spread of them.
23 cartoonists respond [BuzzFeed]. Claire Berlinski’s firsthand account of the attack scene, and Charb’s now-famous “die standing” vow. Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right on whether anything will now change in Europe’s slow constriction of free speech: he fears not (& Hans Bader, CEI).