By Nozomi Hayase for Counter Punch – US authorities are reported to have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This overreach of US government toward a publisher, whose principle is aligned with the U.S. Constitution, is another sign of a crumbling façade of democracy. The Justice Department in the Obama administration could not prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing documents pertaining to the US government, because they struggled to determine whether the First Amendment protection applied in this case. Now, the torch of Obama’s war on whistleblowers seems to have been passed on to Trump, who had shown disdain toward free speech and even called the U.S. media as “enemies of the people”. Earlier this month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo vowed to end WikiLeaks, accusing the whistleblowing site as being a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”. He also once called Edward Snowden a traitor and claimed that he should be executed. This declaration of war against WikiLeaks may bring a reminiscence of George W. Bush’s speech in the aftermath of 9-11, where he said, ‘either you are with us or against us’,…
By Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept – IN FEBRUARY, after Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. media were the “enemy of the people,” the targets of his insult exploded with indignation, devoting wall-to-wall media coverage to what they depicted as a grave assault on press freedoms more befitting of a tyranny. By stark and disturbing contrast, the media reaction yesterday was far more muted, even welcoming, when Trump’s CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, actually and explicitly vowed to target freedoms of speech and press in a blistering, threatening speech hedelivered to the D.C. think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. What made Pompeo’s overt threats of repression so palatable to many was that they were not directed at CNN, the New York Times or other beloved-in-D.C. outlets, but rather at WikiLeaks, more marginalized publishers of information, and various leakers and whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Trump’s CIA Director stood up in public and explicitly threatened to target free speech rights and press freedoms…
By Alex Kotch for AlterNet – As far-right speakers face loud student opposition at their university speaking gigs, conservative lawmakers in several states are introducing legislation that cracks down on protesters. As uncovered by UnKoch My Campus’ Ralph Wilson, numerous states have borrowed their so-called “campus free speech” bills from the rightwing Goldwater Institute, which is funded by conservative plutocrats including Charles Koch and the Mercer family. The intent of these bills isn’t to protect student speech; it’s actually to suppress it in favor of guest speakers who, at times, support white nationalism, LGBTQ discrimination and other hateful worldviews.
By Hugh Handeyside for ACLU – The recent abusive border search of a Canadian photojournalist should serve as a warning to everyone concerned about press freedom these days. Ed Ou is a renowned photographer and TED senior fellow who has traveled to the United States many times to do work for The New York Times, Time magazine, and other media outlets. Last month, Ed was traveling from Canada to the U.S. to report on the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota, when he was taken aside for additional inspection. What came next left him questioning what he thought he knew about the U.S. government and the values it stands for…
By Zach Cartwright for US Uncut. “What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after [Muhammad] Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote, pointing out how Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised “Black Power” fists while accepting medals. In 1967, I joined with football great Jim Brown, basketball legend Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali and other prominent athletes for what was dubbed “The Cleveland Summit.” Together we tried to find ways to help Ali fight for his right of political expression.
By Chip Gibbons of Bill of Rights Defense Committee. On Monday February 8, 2016, as the evening session commenced for the Maryland House of Delegates, it began with Delegates making announcements and welcoming special guests. Part way through this, Del. Jill Carter asked the gathered legislators to welcome “activists from across the state […] with Freedom2Boycott.” About 35 free speech activists stood up in the gallery and waved. Freedom2Boycott is “a coalition of groups and individuals advocating for free speech rights in the State of Maryland in support of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) that promote social justice in Israel/Palestine.”
By Samantha Winslow for Labor Notes – Even basic rights like free speech can’t be taken for granted, transit workers are finding out, when your speech makes the boss look bad. Around the country, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union have been threatened with discipline and arrest simply for bringing their message to the public at bus stops, in breakrooms, at public meetings, and on social media. As workers resist budget-crunching, ATU International President Larry Hanley said, “the companies are fighting back using the power of the police and the power of discharge.”
By Corey Robin for FAIR – Anyone who can write a sentence like this simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Which is fine, but not fine when the person is the head of an organization dedicated to freedom of expression. By “our citizenry,” Nossel is referring to the recent round of free speech wars on college campuses. Now, when these issues of free speech arise on campus, you usually see an explosion of conversation about it: on the campus itself, and in the media. Far from dampening down discussion, the controversy over free speech on campus actually ignites discussion. Everyone has an opinion, everyone voices it.
By Staff of NRDC – CHEYENNE, WY – A diverse coalition of conservation, press, academic and animal-protection groups filed suit today in federal court seeking to strike down a pair of Wyoming state laws that stifle freedom of speech and make citizen science illegal in the state. The suit claims that in violation of Americans’ constitutional rights, the laws punish communication to government agencies of photos and data taken on open land, criminalizing otherwise lawful advocacy in an attempt to undercut protection of public lands and the environment. The challenge to Wyoming’s data trespass rules was brought in the federal district court of Wyoming by Western Watersheds Project, National Press Photographers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Center for Food Safety.
By Christopher Robbins in Gothamist – A new lawsuit filed in federal court last week aims to challenge a reality evident to anyone who has attended a large political gathering in Lower Manhattan over the past decade: lawful behavior is no safeguard against being arrested. The lawsuit centers on more than 200 arrests made around the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in September 2012, when the NYPD “should have known that members of its police force would encounter individuals engaged in expressive speech activity.” Instead, the NYPD continued to arrest and harass protesters for seemingly no reason other than that they were protesting. The lawsuit asserts that this is part of a “pattern, policy, and practice of the NYPD misapplying the disorderly conduct statute to peaceful protesters in New York City.”
By Hannah Bloch-Wehba and Bruce Brown in The Guardian – Can a case about the freedom of speech be resolved in a secret court? In a widely publicized case, Twitter sued the Obama administration in a federal district court in California. The company wished to release a transparency report relating to the user information it is forced to turn over to the government under various surveillance collection programs, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) and the National Security Letter statutes. The government’s preferred venue for resolving Twitter’s First Amendment claim, though, resembles a black box more than an American court. According to the government, the Fisa court in Washington, DC should adjudicate Twitter’s constitutional claim about its right to speak.
Congress has been critical of the Capitol Police this year when it comes to the department’s handling of protesters. Now, one member is demanding to see the department’s policies on removing demonstrators from House and Senate hearings. It started in January, when Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain called one of the protesters who disrupted a panel hearing “low-life scum,” and later vowed he would be “raising hell” over their behavior toward 91-year-old former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “I don’t know if they are being more aggressive,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the latest to scrutinize Capitol Police. “I do know that I have been in hearings where people got up, had a sign, sat down [and] weren’t even asked to leave as long as they didn’t repeat the infraction.” Concerned Capitol Police might have tossed one of her constituents from a House hearing without just cause, Norton wants clarification on the department’s policy on protesters. In a Monday letter to Chief Kim C. Dine, Norton asks Capitol Police to specify the regulations or laws “that indicate whether officers must personally observe the conduct to remove a demonstrator or may rely solely on witness reports.” Local activist Adam Eidinger is fighting “unlawful entry” charges stemming from his arrest during an April 21 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee markup, which he says he was carried out of despite not causing a disturbance. Eidinger heads back to court on May 27. He has said he intends to sue if he is successful in fighting the charges.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement that the six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray were being charged brought cheers and celebratory honking of horns. On closer inspection, however, there are important questions as to whether the arresting officers who began the process that led to Gray’s death were charged with an adequately serious offense. Indeed, if it had not been for the illegal arrest and the damage they did to Gray before the van ride, Gray would not have died. Further, comparing how the police were treated with how protesters were treated shows further injustice and prompts questions about amnesty for all those arrested during the protests. If a country truly believed in freedom of speech and the right to assembly, there would be amnesty for all the protesters who were arrested. They should have their records cleansed, the arrests should never have occurred and there should be no record of them. There is a human right to resist injustice that should be respected. As for the case of Freddie Gray, State’s Attorney Mosby still has a chance to amend the charges against the officers involved in his arrest or bring the case before a grand jury and seek an additional charge of second degree murder against the three arresting officers.