Anniston Star calls City Council’s proposal to bar public employees from criticizing city on social media “oppressive”

The Star, Anniston, Alabama’s daily newspaper, has published an editorial responding to their City Council’s proposed policy to ban city workers from posting anything “embarrassing” about the local government. Public employees would be allowed to comment about the city on Facebook — but only if they hide their employment:

Forget logic, and let’s call this proposed policy what it is: A misguided attempt by the City Council to micromanage the behavior of city employees who do not need councilmen to advise them of their constitutional rights. The Bill of Rights already took care of that.

Perhaps common sense will prevail and this council, as dysfunctional as it is, will see the error of its ways at its next meeting and cast a proposal that’s more functional than oppressive. Let’s urge the council to move in that direction.

The editorial goes on to cite a 2010 incident where a local police officer posted a comment about Anniston City Council member Ben Little as the motivation for the policy.

Florida Judge bans Fully Informed Jury Association from distributing pamphlets in front of courthouse

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Orange and Osceola County courthouses have been deemed a no-go zone for FIJA activists wishing to inform potential jurors that they “may vote their conscience” or “‘hang’ a jury if they do not agree with others on the panel.” Chief Judge Belvin Perry’s order stated:

…restriction upon expressive conduct and the dissemination of leaflets and other materials containing written information tending to influence summoned jurors as they enter the courthouse is necessary to serve the state’s compelling interest in protecting the integrity of the jury system.

FIJA is calling the order a form of “prior restraint” and an affront to the First Amendment and the integrity of the judicial system.

Massachusetts and Florida wrestling with cameras in courtrooms

In Massachusetts, judges are agreeing to prohibit defendants from being photographed over the objection of some media outlets, citing the need to not influence potential eyewitnesses. Meanwhile, the Florida Press Association, Florida Association of Broadcasters, Florida First Amendment Foundation and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have joined forces to denounce a proposed bar rule that would restrict those who are not considered “professional journalists” under state law from using cameras, recording devices or cell phones in court.

The coalition argues that the state law fails to cover web-based news outlets, book authors, bloggers, freelance scribes, and community association reporters that are part of today’s free press.

Anthony Lewis to be honored by New England First Amendment Coalition (via MediaLaw blog)

On February 11th, the NEFA will present its first lifetime achievement award to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Anthony Lewis for work contributing to a better understanding of First Amendment rights. NCAC honored Anthony in 2008, the same year his Freedom Of The Thought We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment was published. For more information on the NEFA presentation, click here to download their PDF.