Mass Communication Law and Ethics

By Roy L. Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
PRIOR RESTRAINT

Freedom is not easy. Freedom is uncomfortable. The First Amendment is a tragic amendment in that it inflicts a great deal of pain on a lot of people. 1

-- writer Kurt Vonnegut

In determining the extent of the constitutional protection, it has been generally, if not universally, considered that it is the chief purpose of the guaranty to prevent previous restraints upon publication. 2

-- majority in Near v. Minnesota ( 1931)

Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity. 3

-- British jurist Sir William Blackstone ( 1723-1780)

Sometimes the First Amendment drives me crazy. The only thing worse than all this clamor is silence. . . . We do not have to fear dissenting voices or even hostile voices. . . . What we have to fear is silence. 4

-- CBS newsman Charles Kuralt ( 1989)

In 1989, the spiritual and religious leader of Iran -- the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomemi -- ordered his Moslem followers throughout the world to track down and murder Indian-born British author, Salman Rushdie, because he claimed that Rushdie novel, The Satanic Verses, slandered Islam, a religion practiced by billions of individuals, especially in Asia and Africa. More specifically, the Ayatollah condemned certain passages in the book as blasphemous in the depiction of a relatively minor character, Mahound, whom Moslems contend is a thinly disguised representation of the prophet Mohammed. Almost immediately, the three largest bookstore chains in this country -- Walden, B. Dalton, and Barnes & Noble -- announced they were pulling the book from their shelves, ostensibly out of fear that threats would be made against their stores and employees. Eventually all three chains changed their policy and displayed the

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