Obscenity Issues Stir Debate; as Anti-Porn Forces Rise, How Far Will Publishers Go to Protect First Amendment Rights?

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Obscenity issues stir debate

New Orleans--Despite growing heat from anti-pornography factions, and despite their own mixed feelings about pornography, most publishers remain united in the fight for First Amendment rights to publish, as seen in a recent debate among industry representatives attending the Atlantic Coast Independent Distributors Association meeting here.

From the point of view of publishers, said Donald Kummerfeld, president of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), "we are all concerned about censorship. But with regard to pornography we may have mixed emotions and a wide variety of opinions--some liberal, some conservative.

"While many of us are not too keen about having it around the house," he added, "many of us would not want to see it banned."

In fact, "it is clear that publishers are becoming more assertive in their defense of First Amendment issues," said Kummerfeld, noting publishers' support of the recent challenge of certain provisions in the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988. "While only a handful of our members might produce pornography, we are all joining in the defense of the right to print it," he said.

Wholesalers, however, are a level closer to the firing line. "Wholesalers and retailers are often the victims of intimidation by law enforcement authorities, who, for political reasons, take on an anti-pornography stance," observed Guy E. Moman Jr., president of GEMCO, an Alabama-based distributor.

In fact, many retailers have simply discontinued selling all periodicals, he said. …