The following is an editorial that appears in today's editions of The American Reporter, at http://www.newshare.com/Reporter/today.html.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: JOE SHEA December 7, 1995 (213)467-0616 WE WILL FIGHT TO THE END FOR FREE SPEECH by Joe Shea American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
Well, it looks like push may come to shove. A joint Senate-House conference committee has inserted language into the telecom reform bill that replaces a prohibition on Internet speech that is "harmful to minors" with a ban on Internet speech that is "indecent" -- normal speech, in many cases, and not necessarily lewd or obscene speech.
As many of you know, in Issue No. 49, in an editorial entitled "We Vow To Challenge The Exon Act" our newspaper took the stand that such language violates the right to speak freely granted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We said then, and we say again, that the survival of free speech on the Internet is more important than even the survival of this newspaper, and we will risk its very existence to fight for a principle in which we fully believe.
We immediately won widespread support for our stand, and in the ensuing days, Visiting Judge Stephen Russell of the Texas judiciary agreed to write the "indecent" article we had vowed to publish if the bill becomes law, and Russell Boe, an attorney with Arent, Fox, a distinguished First Amendment proponent that litigated the "Seven Dirty Words" case, agreed to represent our newspaper in an an action that would be pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn it
We have often believed in the past months that the language would be abandoned, especially after House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared the Exon language to be, in his opinion, unconstitutional and a violation of our free speech rights. Exon has gone, but the language survived. We now believe it will probably be adopted.
In the months since that June declaration, we decided that we would ask other publications to join us in publishing the offensive article by providing links to it from their home pages. We devised a legal strategy which, if it is successful, may preempt the law, and may even make it unnecessary to publish the offensive article, which we would prefer not to do.
Nonetheless, we plan to proceed as have vowed to proceed. This may create some discomfort, and we will honor any request to be formally disassociated from the newspaper that any of our writers or subscribers may make. It is not our desire to offend anyone with language that even offends us, but we will not give away to anyone even a hair's breadth of our right to free speech, in any medium, at any time.
Please be with us in our fight.
-30- The American Reporter Copyright 1995 Joe Shea, The American Reporter All Rights Reserved The American Reporter is published daily at 1812 Ivar Ave., No. 5, Hollywood, CA 90028 Tel. (213)467-0616, by members of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Internet discussion list. It has no affiliation with the SPJ. Articles may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscriptions: Reader: $10.00 per month ($100 per year) and $.01 per word to republish stories, or Professional: $125.00 per week for the re-use of all American Reporter stories. We are reporter-owned. URL: http://www.newshare.com/Reporter/today.html Archives: http://www.newshare.com/Reporter/archives/ Joseph P. Shea, Editor-in-Chief William Johnson, Correspondent Steve Herman, Japan Editor Jeff Foust, Space Editor Walter Brasch, Correspondent Jim Tynen, Humor Correspondent Clarence Brown, Correspondent Philip E. Daoust, Correspondent Calvin Demmon, Science Editor E.W. Count, Crime Editor Robert J. Morgan, Correspondent Frank Stietzen, Jr., Correspondent Karen Hawkins, Correspondent Andreas Harsono, Correspondent Paula Linville, Correspondent Stephen O'Reilly, Correspondent Scott Lewis, Correspondent Anne Bilodeau, Correspondent Thomas Marzahl, Book Editor Bob Elston, Jr., Correspondent Wilson da Silva, Correspondent Russell Sadler, Correspondent Dennis Hinkamp, Correspondent Elaine Hopkins, Correspondent Joan Silverman, Correspondent David Hipschman, Correspondent Mike Finley, Correspondent Yves Leclerc, Correspondent Frank Touby, Correspondent Bob Ewing, Corresponden Elaine K. Crabtree, Correspondent Craig A. Johnson, Correspondent Webster: Bill Densmore * * *