- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

Florida Bar vs. Free Press

You would think that The Florida Bar and its member attorneys and judges who swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution would support a free press as provided for in the First Amendment, right?

Wrong!

According to Mark A. Adams, writing for The Daily Censored [1], a news blog affiliated with Project Censored, “The Florida Bar has proposed a new rule to eliminate coverage of court proceedings by citizen journalists.” Outstanding investigative journalism by Adams has uncovered this proposed rule which would allow only an employee of a “traditional media outlet” or an official court reporter to bring audio or video recording equipment into a court room. Not even a laptop computer would escape this infringement of free speech.

Unfortunately, since the objection to this rule (Fl Rule Jud. Admin. 2.451) had to be filed by February 1, 2011, we can only give them an “unofficial earful” at this point! The Florida Bar, in its stealth attack on the U.S. Constitution and the free press, acted quietly and quickly. What is even worse is the fact that numerous Florida attorneys, who swore to uphold the Constitution, supported this outrageous attack. Perhaps the members of the Florida Bar who proposed and wrote this rule were at a bar when they did it! It would be preferable to hear that they wrote it while drunk, as opposed to being what they believed.

The really disgusting part of all of this is that this rule was proposed in the face of judicial precedent to the contrary. Although Mr. Adams quotes this decision in his article, it is worth quoting the Florida Supreme Court again for emphasis:

“Freedom of the Press is not, and has never been, a private property right granted to those who own the news media. It is a cherished and almost sacred right of each citizen to be informed about current events, on a timely basis, so each can exercise his discretion in determining the destiny and security of himself, other people, and the Nation. News delayed is news denied. To be useful to the public, news events must be reported when they occur. Whatever happens in any courtroom, directly or indirectly, affects all the public. To prevent star-chamber injustice, the public should generally have unrestricted access to all proceedings.” Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. McIntosh, 340 SO. 2d 904.910 (Fla. 1977)

This arrogance and utter disregard for the Court decision and the U.S. Constitution is what is threatening the very fabric of our nation. This is not a bunch of law school students that proposed to ignore this basic constitutional tenet laid out in the First Amendment, it is the Florida Bar! Every freedom loving, patriotic American citizen should ask him or herself this basic question. What is next? Will there be a  21st century Constitutional Convention where liberal activists can throw out the parts of the Constitution that they do not like by packing the convention with their ilk? Don’t laugh; it is being proposed even as I write this column. They are already pushing hard for the Fairness Doctrine to get conservatives off the air or to give equal time to liberals.

The so called “mainstream media” are losing their hold on power in part due to blogs and websites that get the truth out. Talk radio has millions of listeners who hear the “other side” of the liberal media slant, and media watchdog organizations, like Accuracy in Media and The Daily Censored, keep up the pressure to get at the truth. The real truth is that these “sorry excuses” for fairness are no longer the mainstream. Websites, blogs, talk radio and watchdog groups have taken the fight to them and we are beginning to turn the tide!

The Florida Bar uses the words “traditional media outlets” in their proposed rule to determine who has access to court proceedings and who does not. Who does that leave out? Would a journalism student ever get access? How about a student newspaper? Will conservatives be shut out? Who has the right to define the “traditional media outlet?”

Every single American reading these words should write to the Florida Bar right now and tell them to put the rule in the garbage where it belongs. Freedom of the press is not a privilege. It is a First Amendment right. If this rule stands, it is one more nail in the coffin for the free press. If you still have doubts, ask yourself this question. Which side would our Founding Fathers be on?