Media ‘war’ in Buenos Aires

PAUL VAN SLAMBROUCK / The media specialist at the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires was engaged in a typical diplomatic exercise: Placing an opinion article from the newly arrived U.S. ambassador in the local media as a way to greet and thank the host country. The messages are usually the same. They go something like: “I am enthusiastic about this assignment, love the country and am impressed by its people.” In Argentina, though, nothing is typical. Amid what everyone calls a “guerra,” or war, between media and the current administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the location of such a benign article is fraught with danger.

Anonymous poster must be ID’d

WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / The Illinois Supreme Court ruled this week that a northern Illinois public official must be told the name of an anonymous poster to a newspaper website who likened the politician to former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, the child sex abuser. The decision means that the anonymous poster cannot dodge a libel suit by hiding behind anonymity. The Illinois high court ruled unanimously in favor of Stephenson County Board Chairman Bill Hadley, who has been demanding to know the identity of the poster for four years. Under the decision, Comcast, which provides the poster with internet service, would be required to turn over the poster’s identity.

Parties and the press

By TERRY GANEY / The Jefferson City press corps has voted to give the Missouri Times until the end of March to clean up the news organization’s ethics mess or face the possibility of losing credentials to cover events in Missouri’s state capital. Ten representatives of wire service, print and broadcast news organizations met Monday to discuss the lobbyist-sponsored parties that Times’ publisher Scott Faughn had held for lawmakers at the newspaper’s office in Jefferson City. While some press corps members appeared ready to vote to take away the Times’ allocation of capital office and parking spaces, the group approved a motion giving it the chance to draft a newsroom policy of editorial independence as well as time to demonstrate that the lobbyist-sponsored parties were no longer taking place. Collin Reischman, the Times’ managing editor, told the group Faughn was not a journalist and was unschooled in ethics policies. And Reischman said Faughn was trying to hire a consultant to give advice on the development of a mission statement, an employee handbook and “best practices” that would prevent problems in the future.

Anti-Israel Tweets lead to U. of Illinois changing hiring decision

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// The University of Illinois’ last minute decision not to hire a controversial scholar because of his nasty, anti-Israeli tweets has led to a debate about the limits of academic freedom.

The American Indian studies department of the university had approved the tenured appointment of Steven G. Salaita. But that appointment was contingent on approval by the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise decided over the summer not to submit the appointment to the board.

Ferguson protests and the First Amendment rights

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Police appear to be violating the First Amendment rights of protesters and journalists in Ferguson by arresting and targeting journalists and by turning the right to assembly into a daytime-only right.

“Police and officials in Ferguson have declared war on the First Amendment,” said Gregory P. Magarian, a law professor at Washington University Law School. “Since Sunday’s police shooting of an unarmed student, Michael Brown, local officials and law enforcement have blatantly violated three core First Amendment principles: our right to engage in peaceful political protest, the importance of open government, and the freedom of the press.”

Appeals Court likes “likes,” says they’re speech

BY ERIC P. ROBINSON / The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “liking” something on Facebook is speech protected by the First Amendment, reversing a lower court opinion dismissing a suit brought by former employees of a sheriff’s office who lost their job after they “liked” the Facebook page of opponent of their boss in his re-election bid.

Upcoming forum focuses on student free expression rights

Mary Beth Tinker, the student suspended for wearing an armband to class to protest the Vietnam War, will speak about student free expression rights at 7:30 p.m. March 11 in a forum at Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium. Tinker’s suspension became the basis for a lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided that student free expression rights do not stop at the classroom door. The logic expressed by the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court did not sway a later court in 1988, which curbed student free expression rights with its Hazlewood decision.