Georgia House Speaker and avid Republican David Ralston, a lawyer, got himself in a bit of a twist this year. revealed that he had extensively used his legislative privilege to keep legal cases from going to trial. Lawyers in the legislature have the privilege of postponing their dockets while the legislature is in session or on business. Members frequently sign-on and are paid to be co-counsel so the cases don’t get to trial for years. Ralston got caught with his hand in the horrible-injustice-to-victims jar.
Well, Honey, that just got the whole Georgia Republican party in a tizzy. The problem wasn’t with their elected official, the problem was with … oh yeah, you got it: the messenger.
So the Republicans proposed some legislation to fix nasty reporters who stick their noses in important people’s business. They think reporters should have ethical standards laws. Written, of course, by the very people reporters write about.
As a sidenote: most of you know I was a political columnist for a local newspaper for many years. Someone who was miffed at me for writing something they didn’t like asked my boss exactly what was my job description. She responded without missing a beat, “To go find out what people are doing and make them stop it.”
That’s what we do, so this proposed legislation, where you can even be certified as an ethical reporter (hello Fox News!), consists of all manner of things meant to trample the First Amendment, including …
If approved, the bill would also mandate that anyone interviewed by the media would be able to request and receive copies of photographs and audio and video recordings taken by reporters and photographers. Such copies would have to be provided free of cost, even though state and local governments are allowed to charge the public for copies of any documents it provides.
If a media outlet refuses to provide the copies, it would be subject to a lawsuit and a civil penalty, under the bill.
And the real kicker? The Georgia Legislature exempted itself from the Open Records Act so you cannot get a damn thing from them.
If I slander you in the damn newspaper, you have a remedy: sue me. Our ethical standards are truth, justice, and the American way, by gawd.
I kinda suspect these Georgia fellas skimmed over the First Amendment in their excitement to get to the Second, which makes their winkies bigger. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” That that includes Georgia.
Republished with permission from