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USA: Literary group sues Trump, alleges free speech stifling

PEN America v. Trump

Tuesday 16 October 2018, by siawi3

Source: https://www.apnews.com/8908e666f826456ea62a53d9c7ba2a4a?utm_source=Communications&utm_campaign=1b6c18228b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_10_16_03_41&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c67d07604c-1b6c18228b-248417241&mc_cid=1b6c18228b&mc_eid=77d00a34aa

Literary group sues Trump, alleges free speech stifling

By HILLEL ITALIE

16.10.18

Photo: President Donald Trump raises his fist to chants of “USA” during a visit Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, to Lynn Haven, Fla., to see storm damage and recovery efforts following Hurricane Michael. Trump marveled at the roofless homes and uprooted trees he saw Monday while touring Florida Panhandle communities ravaged by the force of the hurricane. (Michael Snyder/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — In the three years that Donald Trump rocketed from candidate to president, the PEN American Center has criticized him as a bully, an autocrat, a user of hate speech and an enemy of free expression. It has published studies, organized petitions and established a Press Freedom Incentive Fund.

Now the literary and human rights organization, which includes thousands of authors and journalists, is taking a more direct step: PEN is suing the president.

In a suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, the center, also known as PEN America, alleges that “official acts” by Trump have “violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution.” PEN cites such examples as reports that Trump was meddling in the proposed merger of AT&T and CNN, a frequent target of Trump’s anger (The Justice Department has sought to block the merger).

The suit also notes Trump’s comments on Washington Post owner and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. Trump, unhappy with the Post’s coverage, has threatened antitrust action against Amazon and suggested raising its shipping costs. According to the Post, he has pressured U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rates. (Last week, the United States Postal Service proposed some hikes for 2019, among them increases which would affect Amazon. Shipping costs have been raised several times over the past decade).

“We wouldn’t be filing this lawsuit if we didn’t think it would be meritorious,”the complaint reads.

An email sent to a White House spokeswoman shortly before the suit was filed was not immediately returned.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, PEN chief executive officer Suzanne Nossel said that Trump had moved beyond harsh (and legally protected) rhetoric such as “fake news” and “enemy of the people.”

“There is widespread concern that the president is actually extracting reprisals on the media for coverage he considers unfavorable,” she said.

PEN is asking that Trump be enjoined from “directing or ordering any officer, employee, agency, or other agent or instrumentality of the United States government to take any action against any person or entity with intent to retaliate against, intimidate, or otherwise constrain speech critical of him or his Administration.”

The organization seeks no money beyond “costs, including attorneys’ fees,” and other “relief as the Court deems just and proper.”

Trump has been sued thousands of times over past the few decades, and shortly before taking office agreed to pay $25 million in a settlement over fraud allegations against the now-defunct Trump University. He also has been sued as president, including on First Amendment grounds.

Last month, a federal court in Cincinnati ruled that protesters at a Trump rally in March 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky, could not sue him for inciting violence, finding nothing incriminating in his remarks. Earlier this year, the Knight First Amendment Institute sued Trump and his communications team for blocking several people from the president’s Twitter account. A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where PEN’s suit was filed Tuesday, ruled in May that blocking Twitter critics violated the First Amendment.

“We wouldn’t be filing this lawsuit if we didn’t think it would be meritorious,” said David A. Schulz, co-director of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, a Yale Law School program serving as co-counsel with the nonprofit, nonpartisan Protect Democracy on the lawsuit. “There is so much evidence of the president’s motives.”

One issue for PEN might be how the organization and its members have been affected by President Trump, what is known as legal standing. Kristy Parker of Protect Democracy said that “PEN’s members, especially those who are journalists covering current affairs, are indeed directly affected by the President’s retaliatory acts and credible threats because they are forced to work in an atmosphere where they could be punished by the President for their speech.”

Nossel added that PEN was not yet “actively asking” Bezos or CNN or other media outlets to join the lawsuit.

“Media organizations are focused on covering the news objectively and providing the essential transparency and accountability that is the work of a free press,” she said. “Every organization has to make their own determination of how best to play their role in this environment. That media organizations might determine to focus on journalism should not mean that the President’s violations go unchallenged by those affected by them.”

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On the Internet: PEN lawsuit, pen.org/pen-america-v-trump/

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Source: email

PEN America v. Trump

“PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative.”

- PEN Charter, 1948

Dear Friends,

From its inception, PEN America has been an organization of writers who come together in support of literature and in defense of free expression. In that spirit, we are writing to let you know that today PEN America, together with the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The suit seeks to stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes.

PEN America v. Trump

President Trump’s tirades against the press are not new. His cries of “fake news” are an almost daily occurrence. The White House has called for individual journalists to be fired, and the president has referred to the media as “the enemy of the American people.” This has created an environment of hostility toward the media wherein journalists have been subject to death threats, needed bodyguards to cover political rallies, and have faced attacks in their newsrooms. The president has also threatened book publishers and authors who have published critical volumes. While many media outlets are unrelenting in their robust coverage, individual writers may think twice before publishing pieces or commentary that could put them in the White House’s crosshairs. As you know, over the last 18 months PEN America has been doing research, reporting, advocacy, outreach events, and more to spotlight and call out the president’s assaults on writers and journalists.

Yet most of the president’s verbal attacks on the press are speech that is protected under the First Amendment. Our country’s broad protections for free speech allow the president to denigrate the press and even go after individual journalists by name. However, when President Trump crosses the line and threatens to use his authority to punish the media, or actually does so, it is vital for the courts to step in and affirm that such threats and reprisals are unconstitutional. We have worked closely with leading First Amendment scholars and practitioners in private practice and academia in order to hone a request to the court to do just that.

The lawsuit outlines four specific examples in which the president’s credible threats and actual acts of retaliation violate the First Amendment’s protection of a free press and lend credence to concerns that his intimidation goes beyond just rhetoric: using the Department of Justice to attempt to disrupt a merger involving CNN’s parent company Time Warner with AT&T because of CNN coverage that the president found hostile; raising postal rates for Amazon because its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, a newspaper that the president views as critical of him; interfering with White House press access; and threatening to revoke broadcast licenses. These actions do not just injure the specific targets of the president’s ire in each instance; they are intended to intimidate all writers and journalists, including PEN America’s Members, with the threat that critical coverage could meet with similar government retaliation.

We believe that a court declaration that such acts by the president are unlawful will provide a powerful tool to push back against presidential efforts to retaliate against the media. Such a ruling would offer protection to journalists and writers threatened by President Trump, so that they can continue to do their work without fear of reprisal from the government.

As an organization of writers, we at PEN America are deeply concerned to see the antagonism toward the press that we’ve long associated with authoritarian rulers around the world manifest here at home. We have forcefully raised concerns about free expression infringements during the Obama, Bush, and other prior administrations including, in some instances, by filing suit. Given our mission to defend free expression and support those who pay a price for its exercise, we are determined to rise in defense of the press freedom protections that are so fundamental to our society and democracy. With media organizations focused on their essential role of providing probing, objective coverage, PEN America is uniquely positioned in standing up to these encroachments on the work of those who cover and comment on the work of our government.

Stand in solidarity with writers and readers across the country by sharing this on Twitter today.

We are so grateful for your support of PEN America and wanted you to hear personally from us about the important step we took today. We welcome your thoughts and comments, as always.

Yours in solidarity,

Jennifer Egan, Suzanne Nossel,
President Chief Executive Officer

P.S. To learn more about PEN America v. Donald Trump, click here for FAQs on the lawsuit and visit pen.org.

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Source: https://pen.org/pen-america-v-trump/?utm_source=Communications&utm_campaign=a54295a467-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_10_15_03_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c67d07604c-a54295a467-248417241&mc_cid=a54295a467&mc_eid=77d00a34aa

PEN America v. Trump

“PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative.”

—PEN Charter, 1948

October 16, 2018,

Today PEN America, represented by the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The suit seeks to stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes.

President Trump’s tirades against the press are not new. His cries of “fake news” are an almost daily occurrence. The White House has called for individual journalists to be fired, and the president has referred to the media as “the enemy of the American people.” This has created an environment of hostility toward the media wherein journalists have been subject to death threats, needed bodyguards to cover political rallies, and have faced attacks in their newsrooms. The president has also threatened book publishers and authors who have published critical volumes. While many media outlets are unrelenting in their robust coverage, individual writers may think twice before publishing pieces or commentary that could put them in the White House’s crosshairs. As you know, over the last 18 months PEN America has been doing research, reporting, advocacy, outreach events, and more to spotlight and call out the president’s assaults on writers and journalists.

Yet most of the president’s verbal attacks on the press are speech that is protected under the First Amendment. Our country’s broad protections for free speech allow the president to denigrate the press and even go after individual journalists by name. However, when President Trump crosses the line and threatens to use his authority to punish the media, or actually does so, it is vital for the courts to step in and affirm that such threats and reprisals are unconstitutional. We have worked closely with leading First Amendment scholars and practitioners in private practice and academia in order to hone a request to the court to do just that.

As an organization of writers, we at PEN America are deeply concerned to see the antagonism toward the press that we’ve long associated with authoritarian rulers around the world manifest here at home. We have forcefully raised concerns about free expression infringements during the Obama, Bush, and other prior administrations including, in some instances, by filing suit. Given our mission to defend free expression and support those who pay a price for its exercise, we are determined to rise in defense of the press freedom protections that are so fundamental to our society and democracy. With media organizations focused on their essential role of providing probing, objective coverage, PEN America is uniquely positioned in standing up to these encroachments on the work of those who cover and comment on the work of our government.

Yours in solidarity,

Jennifer Egan
President

Suzanne Nossel
Chief Executive Officer