Raycom’s NBC WDAM-TV Laurel-Hattiesburg MS came into possession of video that showed an altercation of some sort between inmates of a juvenile detention center and its guards, that allegedly constituted abuse of the inmates. Forrest County Youth Court blocked airing of the video, and now a contingent of organizations, including RTDNA, is supporting WDAM’s battle to air it.
The video was supplied to the station by a former employee of the center. It involves guards and about six inmates. The Court said it needed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, and refused to let WDAM or any other outlet run the video, even if faces were blurred so as to make them unrecognizable.
RTDNA Chairman Mark Kraham commented, “The Youth Court’s order is a clear instance of unconstitutional prior restraint and should be vacated immediately. It is imperative that organizations like RTDNA stand up for the right of news organizations to broadcast factual information, lawfully obtained, about a matter of public concern such as the abuse of juveniles at a government detention facility. That right goes to the very heart of our role as watchdogs for the public.”
Besides RTDNA, journalistic organizations including The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Society of Professional Journalists, The Washington Post and National Public Radio have come to the station’s assistance as it presses its case. They have joined in submitting an amicus brief to the Mississippi State Supreme Court. Neither a hearing date nor a ruling has thus far been revealed.
RBR-TVBR observation: The First Amendment makes it clear that the press is to be allowed to do its job. In our reading of it, we fail to find the footnotes that allow judicial discretion in deciding what news is fit to disseminate and what news is not.