Wisconsin County Briefly Considers (Then Drops) Resolution To Threaten Journalists With Prosecution For Not Reprinting Entirety Of Gov't Report
from the say-what-now? dept
It’s kind of stunning how frequently we see elected officials proposing things that are so blatantly unconstitutional that you wonder how they were proposed in the first place. Take, for example, a situation in southwest Wisconsin. Last week it was reported that the Lafayette County’s board would be considering a hilariously overbroad resolution that threatened to prosecute journalists if they did not report on the local “Review Board of the Water Quality Study.” The proposed resolution did not mince words, noting that it was put in place because of worries about “slander”:
WHEREAS, in the past, Southwest Wisconsin has been falsely slandered by the press due to a county board leak of confidential information of the collaborative three county water study the following protocols must be followed:
So, right from the start this is problematic. Claiming that the press “slandered” you already suggests a bad outlook. Second, any demand for “protocols” that “must be followed” for journalists is inherently a violation of the 1st Amendment that anyone — even a lowly county board member — should recognize. Among the protocols are the insane requirement that any reporting on the report must simply repost the entire press release crafted by the Review Board, and they are not allowed to even quote it.
An appropriate statement will be crafted by the Review Board. It will be crafted in a press release and shared with the press with this specific statement included at the top: “Please do not alter, edit, cut or adjust this press release in anyway. Please print the content provided in full.” Under no circumstances is the media allowed to glean information and selectively report it in order to interpret the results for their own means.
Yeah, so beyond the mixing up of “any way” and “anyway”, telling journalists that they’re not allowed to “glean information” or report on it how they want is kind of insane. It also undermines the “Please” at the beginning of the “specific statement included at the top” which makes it sound like a request. Oh, also undermining the “please” is the sentence after the part quoted above:
Violators will be prosecuted.
FOR WHAT?!? Reporting? Who could have possibly thought this was a good idea?
Either way, within hours of this getting some press attention (and widespread criticism) the board admitted that the proposed resolution was dropped from consideration:
Lafayette County Corporation Counsel Nathan Russell confirmed Friday the committee would no longer be considering the resolution. When asked why the proposal was removed from the agenda, Russell said the resolution was not necessary.
“Not necessary” is a funny way of saying “blatantly unconstitutional” but, hey, at least the end result was correct.