Freedom of the press: The public should be informed

Published 2:39 pm Friday, January 28, 2011

In another case involving the public’s right to know, the Mississippi Supreme Court is being asked to overturn a youth court judge who has barred a Hattiesburg television station from airing a videotape that allegedly shows juveniles being abused by guards at a juvenile detention center.

The Forrest County judge, Mike McPhail, claims that broadcasting the video would jeopardize juvenile privacy, even though WDAM-TV has offered to blur the faces of the juveniles so that they are not recognizable.

A host of media organizations — including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and Mississippi’s press and broadcast associations — has filed legal papers in support of the Hattiesburg station’s right to air the footage.

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This should be an easy call for the Supreme Court.

McPhail’s order is an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of the press. It hampers the media’s investigation of an issue of significant public concern.

Airing the video will let the public know if the allegations of abuse are backed by evidence. The public should be allowed to see it.