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Mississippi TV Station Fights for Right to Show Abuse Video

In Censorship, Hattiesburg-Laurel, Mississippi, NBC on January 23, 2011 at 8:12 am


More than thirty news and media organizations are petitioning the Mississippi Supreme Court to let them file legal papers in support of WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, saying that station should be allowed to air video it obtained showing alleged abuse at a local juvenile detention center.

The Associated Press says the motion was filed Thursday in Jackson. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the matter.

It all started January 13, when WDAM asked the state Supreme Court to lift an injunction on the video ordered by Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail. McPhail said the station failed to provide sufficient evidence that showing the video was a necessity.

Now several news organizations, including The Associated Press, The New York Times, and the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters, argue the youth court judge’s injunction, if allowed to stand, is a DANGEROUS precedent.

From the motion filed by the organizations:

“…the decision would support imposing prior restraints on journalists and media outlets throughout Mississippi and, to the degree the decision is relied upon by courts in other jurisdictions as persuasive authority, throughout the United States.”

“Such a result would be without precedent or justification, and would handicap movants’ ability to investigate and publish truthful, lawfully obtained information concerning matters of significant public concern, particularly matters involving alleged official misconduct at publicly funded correctional institutions.”

It’s obvious the youth court judge is trying to cover something up here, and is trying to use his power as a judge to restrict the station’s Freedom of the Press.

These organizations say the youth court judge’s actions are unconstitutional.

The station has already reported a former employee of the detention center says the video shows alleged abuse of juvenile inmates caused by guards. According to WDAM-TV, the sheriff’s office confirms one guard was fired two years ago for beating a juvenile.

We at South TV News fully support WDAM’s right to broadcast something that is indeed of public significance. We trust the Mississippi Supreme Court will not only rule in the station’s favor, but the youth court judge in question, Mike McPhail, should be fired for abuse of power.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. We’ll continue to follow this story as it develops.

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