First Amendment wins in Mississippi


The Mississippi Supreme Court overruled a youth court judge who had barred Raycom’s NBC WDAM-TV in Laurel-Hattiesburg MS from showing video of an alleged conflict in a detention center involving inmates and guards. The lower court said it was protecting the teen; the upper court sided with the Constitution.

A former employee had provided the station with two hour worth of video that showed alleged abuse involving up to four inmates.

The station had taken steps to protect the teen involved, blurring faces so that participants in the altercation would not be identified.

RTDNA, Associated Press, The New York Times, The Society of Professional Journalists, The Washington Post and National Public Radio all interceded in the case on behalf of Raycom. They argued that the judge’s actions constituted “unconstitutional prior restraint and infringement of the editorial process” and that the judge made no demonstration that airing the video would damage inmate confidentiality or interfere with their rehabilitation.

RTDNA Chairman Mark Kraham said, “This is a positive step for First Amendment rights. We are pleased with the Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling and proud of Raycom Media’s persistence in this battle. As watchdogs for the public, RTDNA will continue to fight for broadcasters’ rights to relay information that’s factual and lawfully obtained.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Two words: Justice prevails!