In Defense of the Fourth Estate, A Landmark First Amendment Lawsuit Against President Trump Will Proceed

Il quarto stato (1901): a march of strikers in Turin, Italy / Public Domain

The term Fourth Estate or fourth power refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognized as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.

The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The equivalent term “fourth power” is somewhat uncommon in English, but it is used in many European languages, including German (Vierte Gewalt), Spanish (Cuarto poder), and French (Quatrième pouvoir), to refer to a government’s separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.



Today a federal court ruled against President Trump in a lawsuit that claims he has used government power to retaliate against media coverage and reporters he dislikes in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the court denied a government motion to dismiss the case and will allow it to go forward on allegations that President Trump has retaliated against the White House press corps and certain holders of security clearances who work as media commentators based on their First Amendment-protected speech.

PEN America, with counsel Protect Democracy, the Yale Law School Media Freedom of Information & Access Clinic, and Davis Wright Tremaine, filed the landmark lawsuit to stop President Trump’s campaign of censorship against the press. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the president’s bid to dismiss the case, allowing it to proceed to the discovery phase.

Susan Nossel courtesy of PEN America Center under  CC BY-SA 4.0 license

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CEO of PEN AMERICA, the plaintiff in the case, issued the following statement:

“It’s hard to think of a moment in American history in which unvarnished, accurate news reporting has mattered more than it does now. This decision is a victory not just for PEN America and our own writers, but also for the journalists and media outlets doing the vital, risky work of keeping us all informed.  But above all, it is a win for all individuals who depend on a free press to dig out the facts and hold leadership accountable without fear of reprisal.  We sued the president because we believe the First Amendment prohibits him from retaliating against speech he dislikes. We are grateful that this essential suit can move forward, vindicating the rights of all those who rely on a free press.”  
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JENNIFER EGAN, PRESIDENT of PEN AMERICA, issued the following statement:“PEN America is profoundly grateful for the court’s timely decision. Though we filed our lawsuit more than a year ago, the Trump administration’s punitive stance toward the press has continued unabated, with corrosive results for truth, fact, our democracy, and—most recently—public health.”

KRISTY PARKER, COUNSEL for PROTECT DEMOCRACY, one of the organizations representing PEN America in the lawsuit, issued the following statement:

“The president can take to Twitter to complain all he wants about media coverage, but he abuses his power and violates the Constitution when he uses his office to punish members of the media. This is not North Korea—we don’t allow our politicians to control what the press says or punish the media for coverage that Dear Leader doesn’t like. Just the opposite—we rely on the media to hold the powerful accountable to the people. It’s important for all Americans that the press can do their jobs freely.”

The lawsuit was filed by Protect Democracy and co-counsel on behalf of PEN America, a leading organization of writers and literary professionals. The lawsuit claims that President Trump has violated the First Amendment rights of PEN America and its members through his threats to use—and actual use of—government power to punish the speech of those he perceives as critics in the media.

The plaintiffs argued that under the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of speech, President Trump can express his own views and criticize journalists and media organizations, but he cannot issue credible threats or deploy government power to retaliate against the media for its coverage. As laid out in the complaint, the president has in at least five situations used or threatened to use the regulatory and enforcement powers of government to punish the speech of journalists. He has:

  • Initiated a government review to raise postal rates to punish the owner of the Washington Post;
  • Directed DOJ enforcement actions against media companies, including CNN’s parent company Time Warner;
  • Interfered with White House press access;
  • Threatened to revoke broadcast licenses; and
  • Revoked the White House press credentials and security clearances of media commentators.

The court granted the government’s motion to dismiss on claims related to the first four situations, finding that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, but allowed the case to go forward on the claims related to press credentials and security clearances. The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment—a ruling that the president’s use of government power to punish the press violates the First Amendment. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could have far-reaching consequences for a president who has made a habit of retaliating against his media critics, and for future presidents who might seek to escalate attacks on the press.

The government had argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and failed to state a legal claim. Today’s ruling held that the plaintiffs can pursue claims for declaratory relief based on allegations of retaliation against the White House press corps and holders of security clearances.

The case will now move into discovery, where plaintiffs will be able to obtain documents from the government to substantiate its claims that President Trump has sought to use the regulatory state to punish media he does not like.

Read more about the case HERE.

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This post is courtesy of Wikipedia and PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Itsmission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.



Jamie Dedes:

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For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

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“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Suspension of ABC Reporter “Sends the Wrong Message” says PEN America; News Outlets Defend Wright

Journalist David Wright meets Pope Francis en route to South America, July 2015 courtesy of Manitoba321 under   CC BY-SA 4.0 license

David Wright is an Emmy Award-winning Canadian-American broadcast journalist and political activist, a former correspondent for ABC News, and a self-described socialist. His work appears on Nightline, World News Tonight, Good Morning America and 20/20.



ABC News on Wednesday announced it had suspended correspondent David Wright for comments he made that were secretly recorded and disseminated by a right-wing activist group.

“ABC’s decision essentially—and wrongly—suggests that journalists are unable to do their work professionally if they have private opinions, as any individual does. In doing so, it hands a victory to an outfit whose mission is to use underhanded tactics to undermine public faith in the credibility of a free press. Wright was expressing his personal opinions at a bar, and even gave a disclaimer that his comments were separate from his professional work. To punish him for this sends the wrong message to the public and to those who seek to further drive distrust in professional media.”  Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expressions Programs, PEN America.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

H.R. 2054 Has Bipartisan Support and would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets

Woodcut by Tommaso Garzoni depicting a town crier with a trumpet / Public Domain

PEN America says proposed law would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets



A bill that would provide a temporary exemption to antitrust rules for news outlets represents a potentially positive step toward addressing the economic crisis affecting local news outlets throughout the country, PEN America announced this week,  but cautioned that the effectiveness of the bill will hinge on whether small- and mid-sized news outlets are meaningfully represented in any resulting negotiations.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 aims to provide news providers a two-year enxemption from federal antitrust laws in order to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook over how the digital giants can use those outlets’ online content. Enjoying bi-partisan backing and supported by the newspaper trade group the News Media Alliance—which represents almost 2,000 news organizations—the bill is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate.

“Local news is in crisis, something that affects not only the media sector but that deeply impacts access to critical information for millions of Americans,” said Thomas O. Melia, PEN America’s Washington director. “It is heartening to see bipartisan support for legislation responding to this crisis, and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act offers an important opportunity for news outlets to negotiate a more equitable arrangement with the tech giants.”

Since 2005, newspapers have lost more than $35 billion in ad revenue. More than 20 percent of the nation’s newspapers have shuttered within the last twenty years. Numerous journalists, media reform advocates, and analysts—including PEN America—have concluded that local news is in crisis. One of the key drivers of this crisis, PEN America argued in its November 2019 report “Losing the News,” is the fact that news outlets see little of the ad revenue for users who find or read their news articles through Facebook or Google.

“To address the crisis in a meaningful way, negotiations between tech companies and news publishers will have to include independent small and mid-sized outlets, as well as those that specifically serve those communities most affected by the decline of local news ecosystems: communities of color and low-income and rural communities,” said PEN America’s Melia.

“Ultimately, the success of this act will be determined by whether it helps ensure Americans continue to have access to original, local, quality news on critical issues in their lives. We welcome this effort to take a creative approach to the local news crisis and urge that hearings on this legislation be convened as soon as possible to refine the proposal.

“Finally, we note that this act represents only one step towards addressing the local news crisis. For such an urgent and serious problem, more—much more—will be needed. That is why PEN America continues to call for a Congressional commission on the local news crisis, to help craft the solutions that will ensure the future of local American journalism.”

This content is courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie DedesAbout /Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium Ko-fi

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate, Andrew Yang, proposes support for local newsrooms

Andrew Yang talking about urban entrepreneurship at Techonomy Conference 2015 in Detroit, MI courtesy of Asa Mathat for Techonomy under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Andrew Yang (b. 1975) is an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, the founder of Venture for America (VFA), and a U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. He worked in startups and early-stage growth companies as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009. After he founded VFA, the Obama administration selected him in 2012 as a “Champion of Change” and in 2015 as a “Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship”.In November 2017 Yang launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.His signature issue is support for what he calls the “Freedom Dividend”, a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for every American adult over 18 years old. Yang believes UBI is a necessary response to the rapid development of automation that is leading to workforce challenges. According to CNN on May 23 Yang ranked tenth out of the top ten Democratic candidates. The first Democratic candidate debates begin on June 26. Yang is scheduled to participate on June 27.



Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s initiative to support local newsrooms through American Journalism Fellows is a creative proposal worthy of consideration to bolster community-based news PEN America acknowledged in a statement today.

According to Yang’s campaign website, the American Journalism Fellows initiative would place 535 journalists in local newsrooms across the country. Changing technology and the shift of advertising revenue from news organizations to tech giants have undermined the traditional business model of journalism. Yang’s initiative aims to “provide resources to ensure a strong independent press, free up a critical mass of reporters to meet market-based demands, [and] affirm journalism as a profession.”

In a June 16 interview with CNN, Yang argued for government investment in local news by citing studies that connect increasing political polarization to the collapse of local reporting.

“If you believe in a vibrant democracy, or even a functional democracy,” Yang said, “then you have to believe in local journalism.”

The campaign website said reporters from each state would be “nominated by a body of industry professionals and selected by a nonpartisan commission. Selected reporters will receive a 4-year grant of $400,000 ($100,000 per year) and will be stationed at a local news organization with the condition that they report on issues relevant to the district during the period of their Fellowship.

“We commend Yang for his recognition of the valuable service that local news outlets provide to communities,” said PEN America’s Washington Director Thomas O. Melia. “Journalism, and local journalism in particular, is an asset to democracy. In the struggle to preserve and support this fundamental institution, we welcome new and innovative ideas that add to the discourse.

“Care would have to be taken to ensure that such a program did not lead to journalists promoting government views or perspectives, but instead enhanced independent and investigative journalism. 

“Going forward, we hope other campaigns and political party leadership will follow Yang’s lead in formulating concrete policy proposals that seek to reinforce local journalism as a public good.”

This post is complied courtesy of PEN America, Wikipedia, CNN, and Yang’s campaign site.

DISCLAMER: This content is meant to be informative and is not to be construed as an endorsement of Yang.  The Poet by Day does not endorse political candidates but does stand for freedom of expression and integrity in journalism and assumes that as writers, poets and artists, readers here share this interest and concern.

PEN America is active in supporting freedom of the press in local communities around the country. It’s Press Freedom Incentive Fund provides financial support for initiatives that mobilize communities to demand an independent and robust local press. By uniting supporters, readers, and writers from coast to coast in support of journalism, PEN America stands in solidarity with local newsrooms nationwide. PEN America is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse political candidates.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

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