Sue the Messenger, Part Two

In 2000 the Media Takes It From All Sides

In the meantime, the neighbor has pleaded to wiretap violations, and Peavy lost a suit against New Times, which obtained its transcript of Peavy's call from school board records. But Peavy is still trying to nail WFAA for violating federal wiretap law. A lower court ruled that WFAA was protected by the First Amendment; the case is now pending in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

There is something ominous going on here: The Justice Department has filed supporting briefs in Boehner, Peavy, and others, arguing that the First Amendment does not protect any third party who receives and discloses an illegal tape. Maybe the feds just want to give themselves broad power to enforce the wiretap law. But in the sacred name of privacy, it seems, they are willing to remove the protections offered to journalists, even if the substance of the reporting clearly serves the public interest.

At least one news organization is prepared to defend its free speech rights: APBNews.com, which was recently barred from requesting financial disclosure forms filed by federal judges. The decision, issued by a committee representing the federal judiciary, has been called "audacious" and "laughable" by The Washington Post. And APB is determined to get those forms posted online, because it believes the people are the best judge of proper judiciary conduct. On December 22, APB sued in federal court in New York, charging that its First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated. Check the site for detailed updates.

  Research assistance: Suzanne Latshaw

ccotts@villagevoice.com

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