News & Opinion

New Forest Service rules for photos in wilderness bump into First Amendment

The U.S. Forest Service is restricting media coverage in wilderness areas, forcing reporters to pay for permits and obtain permission to ply their trade. Permits cost $1,500 and failing to get one could bring fines of up to $1000. “The Forest Service needs to rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a […]

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Brown Act Roundup: No public hearings on LA County contracts

A California appeals court ruled that the County of Los Angeles could make contracts for social services without public hearings. The court found that the contracts were made by executive officers not strictly a part of  a legislative agency so consequently the Brown Act, the state’s open government law, did not apply.  (Metropolitan News-Enterprise, September […]

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Free speech: Bans on panhandling may head to the U.S. Supreme Court

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a law forbidding panhandling in the historic district of Springfield, Illinois did not run afoul of the First Amendment. Springfield does not allow signs or spoken requests for money in the downtown area. Federal district courts have made divergent rulings on the issue and the U.S. […]

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Obama administration’s latest effort to stonewall public involves torture hearing at Guantanamo

The Justice Department is asking a federal judge to barricade a hearing at Guantanamo, keeping the press and public from learning about force-feeding practices of suspected terrorists at the prison. “The record in this case includes inextricably intertwined classified, protected, and unclassified information,” wrote government attorneys in their motion to the court. (Politico, September 28, […]

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Lack of transparency and accountability cited in continued used of Stingray technology

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is continuing its practice of stifling public access to information about the use of Stingray cell phone surveillance equipment. A redacted copy of a nondisclosure agreement the FBI made with the Tacoma, Washington police department shows that the police must sign a nondisclosure agreement before buying the equipment from the […]

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First Amendment rights imperiled by overbroad laws restricting nude photos

The recently-enacted Arizona “anti-revenge porn” law to ban sharing nude photos without permission has come under fired by the media, rights groups, publishers and librarians. The critics claim it is overbroad and would criminalize such common exchanges of photos as those of babies or of  women breast feeding commonly used for educational purposes. (Wired, September […]

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Chinese artist’s bold foray: Alcatraz exhibit for free speech and human righrts

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has found a unique way to make an emphatic statement for free expression and human rights with the opening of “Traces” this week at Alcatraz Island, a collection of portraits of 176 political exiles and prisoners of conscience from around the world. Ai Weiwei designed the exhibit, employed a crew […]

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Banned Books Week: Censors still revel in banning such books as ‘Captain Underpants’

“Captain Underpants” reigns as the number one target of book censors with 307 challenges to the books in 2013. Not only do censors object to the potty jokes but to the “offensive language” and violence, i.e., an egg rocket targeting heads of people. (American Civil Liberties Union, September 22, 2014, by Samia Hossain) “Banned Books […]

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Federal appeals court overturns conviction of man who sent ‘hateful’ poem to professor

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a poem full of hate and threats was protected speech and threw out the conviction of Aaron Michael Heineman who had sent the poem to a University of Utah professor. Heineman’s lawyer argued that a lower court failed to find that he intended the professor to […]

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Reporters Committee hires litigation director in free press struggle

The  Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is launching an aggressive campaign in defense of journalists, for the first time hiring a legal director to bring lawsuits across the U.S. The RCFP is expected to focus on the right of journalists “to monitor government activities.” The move is seen as helping to fill a […]

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