Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane dropped a longstanding corruption “sting” probe that had snagged several Philly officials. The Philadelphia Inquirer raised questions about her decision in its reporting, which contributed to a public outcry over the episode. Then Attorney General Kane brought a prominent libel litigator with her to a meeting with the Inquirer editors, and that lawyer announced that Kane was exploring her options of suing the paper and others that had reported on the matter, and that he was going to do the talking for her.
On Sunday the paper continued to cover the sting story here and here. Ed Krayewski comments at Reason. Longtime Overlawyered readers may recognize the name of Kane’s attorney Richard Sprague.
“…Congress can’t tell a newspaper how to do business.” [Jack Shafer, Reuters; my 2011 take on Rep. Henry Waxman's fall from his committee chairmanship]
Unthinkable here, one presumes. But the United Kingdom has no First Amendment, and a noisy lobby has been demanding press regulation to curb the periodic misconduct of the tabloids, made worse by what is perceived as the irresponsible and, well, unreliable (cf.: Rupert Murdoch) political stands and cultural practices of those papers. [Daily Telegraph and editorial ("unacceptable"), Andrew Gilligan ("Hacked Off is a campaign not just to tame the press, but to claim the country for the authoritarian Left.") and followup]
More: “NO” [The Spectator]
Regarding the right to publish illicitly obtained secrets, the venerable Guardian would come off as a nobler martyr had it not been in the front lines cheering a police-led legal war on British tabloids [Brendan O'Neill, Spiked Online; The Spectator]
“Kentucky claims that writing an advice column that appears in a newspaper in the state — in the specific case of their complaint, the Lexington Herald-Leader, though it appears in others as well — is not an act of freedom of the press, but rather practicing psychology without the required license.” [Brian Doherty] “John Rosemond has been dispensing parenting advice in his newspaper column since 1976, making him one of the longest-running syndicated columnists in the country.” The Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology had its attention called to Rosemond by a local complaint about a column in which he advised parents about how to handle a sullen teen but did not recommend they seek professional help. The Board, along with the state’s attorney general, proceeded to demand that he submit to a cease-and-desist order on such matters as whether he can be bylined as a “psychologist”; Rosemond is licensed as such in his home state of North Carolina, but not in Kentucky. The Institute for Justice is defending Rosemond and has filed an action against the state. [AP]
Update from the Kentucky AG’s office: don’t blame us, we let our lawyers lend themselves out for state agency work and it was by inadvertence that our letterhead was used on what went to Rosemond. As Caleb Brown notes, this opens up new questions even if it answers some others.
This is totally appalling: “The European Union is quietly pouring millions of pounds into initiatives and groups seeking state-backed regulation of the press, including key allies of the controversial Hacked Off campaign.” [Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph]
Now it’s newspapers in Ireland advancing the old, curious claim that online publishers have a right to order others not to link to their content. [McGarr Solicitors, earlier]
I’ve expanded into a longer Cato post my item about how (according to the New York Times) incoming French president François Hollande demanded and got the dismissal of the editor of Le Figaro, the leading opposition (conservative) newspaper. If you think such things would never happen in this country, you might want to catch up on a couple of stories from Chicago and Boston. The post is here.
P.S. They’re still fighting in Washington over media cross-ownership rules.
Incoming Socialist president François Hollande demanded and received the dismissal of the editor of Le Figaro, the country’s top conservative newspaper, whose owners have military-contracting interests and must cultivate the goodwill of the state. [Scott Sayare, New York Times]
Shelby County (Memphis) has subpoenaed the identity of the authors of 10,000 anonymous comments at the city’s major newspaper, the Commercial Appeal. Some of the comments, on a school consolidation plan, exhibited racial animus, and the county may be planning to seek the striking down of a particular law on the grounds that the lawmakers who enacted it were influenced by citizens displaying improper animus. “It is hard to square this subpoena with long-established protections for the right to speak anonymously,” writes Paul Alan Levy [CL&P] After the subpoena, which the newspaper is resisting, touched off a controversy, two commissioners reportedly “placed partial blame on The Commercial Appeal for reporting the subpoena.” Eugene Volokh wonders why there would be anything wrong with the newspaper blowing the whistle: “I should think that anonymous commenters (past and future) deserve to know that their county government might try to do this to them.” [Volokh Conspiracy](& Alex Adrianson, Heritage Insider Online)
The Texas Supreme Court has sent back for further adjudication a controversy in which two newspapers had failed to win a summary judgment motion in a libel case filed against them. It took judicial notice that the trial judge in the case had taken a plea bargain on racketeering charges that included having accepted a $8,000 bribe to rule against the newspapers on the motion [ABA Journal]
The financial press has been speculating that the police-payoff scandal that has engulfed some of Rupert Murdoch’s British properties will provide fodder for a U.S. prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Alison Frankel, Reuters: “In an age of limited resources, I’m not convinced that our government should be bending and twisting the FCPA to make a case against News Corp, however sexy and high-profile that case would be. Remember, just about every FCPA case we’ve seen in the recent flurry of prosecutions has involved alleged bribes of officials in countries with inadequate anti-corruption enforcement systems.” More: Bainbridge.
Deposed press lord Conrad Black is taking a public stand against the law enforcement and corporate-governance authorities that put him behind bars. [Andrew McCarthy/The New Criterion, earlier]
Economic liberty intertwined with civil liberty, part 7,914,886: “The paper used to produce newspapers came under government control in Argentina on Thursday, in a long-sought victory for President Cristina Fernandez in her dispute with the country’s opposition media,” reported AP last month. More from the BBC, and earlier from my Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo.
Independent papers in the South American republic are quite right to fear for their future, if earlier ventures into government newsprint control are any indication. Dictator Juan Peron used similar methods to muzzle the press, while in Mexico for decades governments of the ruling PRI closely controlled newsprint allocation, a power they were not hesitant to use to bring excessively independent publishers to heel. It came as an important move toward Mexican political liberalization in 1990 when the Salinas government did away with the controls, by allowing free importation of newsprint to any buyers subject to a modest tariff.
Significantly, the measure just signed by Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner inserts the government directly as a prospective owner of the business and contains provisions on newsprint imports as well. Per Impunity Watch:
Clarins newspaper notes that there are a number of disturbing aspects to the bill. First is the passage that allows for the state to unilaterally take a majority share of the company as the newsprint distribution is now classified a national interest. Also of concerns is the portion that would permit the Economy Minister to determine how much newsprint to import, establishing government quotas that have never before existed….
Concurrent with the media bill passage is a new anti-terrorism bill that classifies certain “economic crimes,” including certain actions taken by the media, as terrorist acts. The bill states that “economic terrorist acts” are those done with an intent to terrorize the general population.
Whether relatedly or not, the Argentine government last year launched prosecutions of independent economists who have asserted that the country’s actual inflation rate is higher than that reported by the government (& Coyote).