Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, doesn’t like the many critical and investigative stories that WBFF Baltimore has run about her and just sent an astonishing letter to the Federal Communications Commission demanding that its “coverage [be] curtailed and ceased.” Mosby’s letter really must be seen to be believed: it openly seeks to intimidate and chill speech protected by the First Amendment.
Notes UCLA lawprof and leading free speech law expert Eugene Volokh writes: “I note that none of the letter’s claims of ‘distortion’ are supported by any actual explanation of why the stories are supposedly inconsistent with the facts.” After examining and dismissing as unactionable other charges raised in the Mosby letter, including invasion of her privacy, he adds: “certainly critical news coverage, whether of prosecutors, police officers, or anyone else, can’t be suppressed on the grounds that some tiny fraction of the audience may be so angered by it that they will commit crimes against the people being criticized. I expect the FCC to (rightly) dismiss the complaint.”
It seems to me that Mosby’s letter should be met by a united front of condemnation among free speech advocates, media people (in Maryland especially), and those who track D.A. misconduct. Prosecutors must not be allowed to chill and suppress critical journalism about their doings.
I’m in the Baltimore Sun discussing a bad Maryland law passed in response to the furor over Russian trolling on social media. I wrote about it earlier when a federal district court struck the law down, and now a Fourth Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, has agreed that it is unconstitutional. Excerpt:
Exposing foreign governments’ meddling in U.S. politics is a worthy goal. Infringing on First Amendment freedoms is no way to go about it….
[After the law passed] Google immediately stopped hosting political ads in Maryland, a step particularly unhelpful to newcomer candidates, for whom advertising may be one of the few effective ways to boost name recognition. Other platforms, including some Maryland newspapers, also faced a tough position as the effective date of the law drew near. Rather than publish disclosures that might expose to competitors’ eyes confidential information about their ad rates and viewer reach, they might prefer just to immunize themselves by turning down political and issue ads in the future as a category.
Whole thing here (cross-posted from Overlawyered).
The Sun’s bizarrely left-handed endorsement reads like a breakup letter with Anthony Brown that talks itself into giving him one last chance. It cites his “strikingly dishonest” campaign with its “unrepentant mendacity” and says his growth promises “sound laughable” after his role in the “disastrous” health exchange “debacle.” It praises Larry Hogan as “genuine and appealing” with a “strikingly moderate” agenda. Then … it forgives Brown while pledging to hold him accountable next time. Next time — but not this time.
Dear Sun: Stop trying to reform him. It’s over. Move on.