Today the First Amendment Coalition sent a letter to the Cypress City Council protesting the City’s veiled threats directed at the Event-News Enterprise, a local news outlet that recently reported the results of two votes from a closed session meeting of council members about an ongoing lawsuit.
Contained in item 17 of the agenda for the city council meeting today is the following: “the Event-News Enterprise’s decision to report on confidential closed session votes is regrettable and inconsistent with ethical journalism principles.” The item recommends “an investigation into the disclosure of the closed session information to the Event-News Enterprise.” In addition, Cypress Mayor Anne Mallari described the Event-News Enterprise’s story in a letter to the editor as “reckless reporting,” and the City Attorney demanded “a full retraction” without stating any specific errors.
As FAC’s letter notes, the First Amendment was designed to preserve a free press as a vital source of public information, and gratuitous attacks on the press undermine that principle. The government exists to “serve the people and defend the Constitution, not to ‘sit as some kind of journalism review seminar.’”
Even if the results of the votes were leaked by a city council member or staff member, “the First Amendment protects the Event-News Enterprise’s right to publish information of public concern.” The letter reminds the City that if it decides to investigate the alleged leak, California and federal law guarantee absolute protection for the Event-News Enterprise against subpoenas or searches seeking to identify any sources or unpublished information. These protections are a bulwark defending press freedom against abuses of power.