Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shut up and do as I say

The Thomas Jefferson Center For the Protection of Free Expression has released the 2008 Muzzle Award winners. In case you don't know about them, "...the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment." And as with any award of this nature we often find both humour and disgust.

Among those honored this year are judges, police departments, attorneys, college presidents and government entities such as FEMA (of course). I have listed a few here for your pleasure.

An award goes:

To Lancaster County (Nebraska) District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront for forbidding all witnesses, including the alleged victim, from using the word “rape” and other terms in a trial for first-degree sexual assault. The judge said it was OK to use the words "sex" and "intercourse" to describe consensual and non-consensual relationships, but to insure that the defendant received a fair trial, no one could use any language that implied an assault or rape had taken place.

To the Scranton, Pa. police department for bringing criminal charges against a woman for screaming profanities at an overflowing toilet inside her own home.

Last October, Dawn Herb of Scranton was in her house when one of its toilets began to overflow. With the water leaking through the floor into her kitchen below, Herb yelled to her daughter to get a bucket and mop, and then she let loose a tirade of foul language directed at the toilet itself. So loud was Herb in expressing her frustration that a neighbor heard her.

The neighbor, an off-duty officer with the Scranton Police Department, yelled to Herb to keep it down. When she continued, the neighbor called an on-duty fellow officer on the latter’s cell phone to report Herb. That officer arrived and issued Herb a citation for disorderly conduct, a charge carrying a possible sentence of 90 days in jail and a fine up to $300.

And finally to FEMA for scheduling and executing a contrived or fabricated press conference, during which members of the legitimate news media were unable to ask questions.

Still smarting from intense criticism about its handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast, the agency announced a press conference on its many efforts to assist the victims of wildfires in California. Reporters received only 15 minutes notice before the event began; as a result few, if any, legitimate journalists were able to attend and cover the event. FEMA did provide an 800 number so reporters could call in, but only to listen, not to ask questions. Second, and even more egregious, those who appeared to be reporters and asked most of the questions were in fact agency staff members planted there for that precise purpose. Third, the questions posed by those staff-masquerading-as-reporters were gently described by the Associated Press as “soft and gratuitous,” and not surprisingly elicited answers congenial to the image that FEMA had hoped to reinforce.


CamiKaos said...

"To the Scranton, Pa. police department for bringing criminal charges against a woman for screaming profanities at an overflowing toilet inside her own home."

I could soooo get busted or that.

mielikki said...

we could all get busted for that

sybil law said...

Count me in!
That should not surprise anyone. :)