Attacks on press pose danger to journalists, democracy

Attacks on press pose danger to journalists, democracy

June Speakman, RWU political science professor: On Aug. 5, Brian Stelter, anchor of CNN’s Reliable Sources, shared with viewers an audiotape of a call to a CSPAN political show in which the caller said that if he ran into Stelter and CNN correspondent Don Lemon, he would “shoot” them. Earlier in the week, MSNBC’s Katy Tur read an email from a viewer who wrote that he hoped that she “got raped and killed” and signed off as “MAGA” (“Make America Great…

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Putin is no friend of a free press

Putin is no friend of a free press

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: President Trump has heaped scorn on the leaders of long-time U.S. allies such as Canada – calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak.” And he has heaped praise on the leaders of long-time adversaries such as Russia – calling President Vladimir Putin “very, very strong” after a particularly obsequious performance…

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Janus v. AFSCME and “Weaponizing the First Amendment”

Janus v. AFSCME and “Weaponizing the First Amendment”

Michael J. Yelnosky, dean of the RWU School of Law and professor of law: On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The majority held that the First Amendment prohibited the enforcement of ubiquitous provisions in collective bargaining agreements between public sector labor unions and government employers requiring all employees represented by the union to pay their share of the costs the union incurs when bargaining with the employer on their behalf. In doing…

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Seizing reporter’s phone, email records is an ‘ominous step’

Seizing reporter’s phone, email records is an ‘ominous step’

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: YouGottaBeKiddingMe. I mean, perhaps it comes as no surprise that prosecutors in President Donald Trump’s Justice Department secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporters’ phone and email records as part of a leak investigation. But no one appreciates the danger of such a step more than James Risen, the…

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Discovering Trump

Discovering Trump

David A. Logan, professor of law and former dean of the RWU School of Law, who has studied and written extensively about First Amendment issues: Reporters, like litigators, spend much of their time talking with people and slogging through documents, trying to establish what happened. For lawyers, this tedious but essential work is called discovery. Right now, teams of lawyers across the country, representing both the government and private citizens, are doggedly “discovering” evidence to determine whether Donald Trump, as a businessman…

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Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling: No Constitutional Right to Discriminate (For Now)

Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling: No Constitutional Right to Discriminate (For Now)

Jared A. Goldstein, RWU law professor who teaches constitutional law and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney: By cutting a narrow slice of the wedding cake case, the U.S. Supreme Court has created little new law, meaning there remains no constitutional right to discriminate – at least for now. On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – the case of a cake shop owner who refused to bake a…

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Farce and tragedy of 38 Studios warrants full disclosure

Farce and tragedy of 38 Studios warrants full disclosure

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: It is our Watergate. The 38 Studios debacle might not have produced a constitutional crisis or a legal battle (over the Nixon White House tapes) that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. But Curt Schilling’s ill-fated video-game venture certainly produced a monumental crisis here in Rhode…

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Sinclair script unintentionally undermines trust, underscores dangers

Sinclair script unintentionally undermines trust, underscores dangers

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: The bad news is that local TV news anchors from coast to coast stared into the camera and read from a script, parroting the “fake” news mantra of a press-bashing president. The good news, such as it is, is that perhaps there was no better way to vividly illustrate a largely academic debate…

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Media centralization imperils marketplace of ideas

Media centralization imperils marketplace of ideas

David A. Logan, professor of law and former dean of the RWU School of Law, who has studied and written extensively about First Amendment issues: Our country loves its myths, and one is that our newspapers exist to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This romantic notion of the independent commentator may never have been accurate, as for many years the political bent of media outlets was transparent (indeed, sometimes even paid for!). And you don’t need to have a degree…

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Ignoring threats and bribes, West African radio stations send important signal

Ignoring threats and bribes, West African radio stations send important signal

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: Amid the mounting pressure of a looming presidential election, they receive phone calls from high-ranking party officials. They receive bribe offers. They receive threats. But they remain independent, refusing to serve as mouthpieces for the feuding campaign camps, refusing to take the cash that other journalists readily pocket, refusing to be anything other…

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