Missouri

Smith v. The Humane Society

February 4, 2016

The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether the Humane Society’s statements identifying a dog kennel as a “puppy mill” and one of the “worst puppy mills in Missouri” are protected under the First Amendment as non-actionable statements of opinion. The Humane Society made the statements during a political campaign urging Missouri voters to approve a statewide public referendum on the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.” The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s defamation and false light claims, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. The Reporters Committee, with a coalition of 22 media organizations, filed an amicus brief with the Missouri Supreme Court. Amici urge the Court to find the statements are constitutionally protected opinion and affirm the trial court’s dismissal because the Humane Society’s statements are based on disclosed, truthful facts and are core political speech.

State ex rel. BuzzFeed v. Cunningham

September 24, 2015

BuzzFeed has asked the Supreme Court of Missouri to review a trial court judge’s decision to seal the jury list in the high profile criminal case against Michael L. Johnson, accused of recklessly transmitting the HIV virus. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted amicus suggestions in support of BuzzFeed’s petition. In the amicus suggestions, the Reporters Committee argued that jury lists are presumptively open under the First Amendment and that their closure can be justified only upon a showing of a compelling governmental interest. The Reporters Committee further argued that providing the press with access to jury lists increases public confidence by ensuring that the judicial process is conducted in the open and by exposing potential corruption.

Reporters Committee-led coalition calls on Ferguson officials to drop charges against reporters

Press Release | August 18, 2015
August 18, 2015
Reporters Committee-led coalition calls on Ferguson officials to drop charges against reporters

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by 38 other news outlets and media organizations, has sent a letter to St. Louis County officials protesting the recent filing of criminal charges against two reporters over incidents that occurred during the protests in Ferguson, Mo., last summer.

"The best way for Ferguson to show that it will respect the First Amendment rights of journalists covering the continuing controversy there is to rescind these charges immediately," the letter stated.

"The fact that these journalists were kept from doing their jobs was troublesome enough. But the fact that your office – after having had time to reflect on police actions for a full year – has chosen to pursue criminal prosecution now is astonishing," the letter also noted.

Protest letter regarding Ferguson charges against journalists

August 18, 2015

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a 39-member media coalition protesting the decision of St. Louis County officials to press charges against several journalists arrested last year covering the events in Ferguson, Mo.

Reporters Committee prevails in Missouri execution drug secrecy case

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | July 17, 2015
Commentary
July 17, 2015

A circuit court in Missouri has ruled that the state Department of Corrections cannot withhold information about the pharmacies and laboratories that compound, test, and supply the drugs that the state uses to carry out executions.

The ruling is a rare legal victory for the public’s right to know details about the sources of such drugs amid widespread concerns over the legality of how they are obtained.

“The public has a compelling interest and a clear right to know how their government is carrying out executions,” said Katie Townsend, Litigation Director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “This ruling vindicates that right, and is an important win for the people of Missouri and the rest of the United States.”

Consent orders on arrests of journalists released as Ferguson awaits grand jury decision

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | November 21, 2014
News
November 21, 2014

(Editor's note: The Reporters Committee's hotline, 800-336-4243, will be available during any upcoming unrest for journalists who are interfered with while covering the news.)

As St. Louis anxiously awaits a grand jury decision on whether to indict the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, city, county and state officials have agreed to consent orders regarding the arrest of journalists to end litigation brought by the ACLU over earlier events in Ferguson.

All eyes on Ferguson as decision nears

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | November 7, 2014
News
November 7, 2014

The grand jury weighing whether or not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown is expected to deliver a decision by mid-November. But possible unrest could return to the city if the grand jury declines to indict next week, while police officials have still not addressed the treatment of journalists who covered the protests.

The protests following the Aug. 9 shooting prompted reports of police officers arresting and intimidating reporters who were trying to cover the story.

According to Officer Tim Zoll, a spokesman for the Ferguson Police Department, the department has no plans to change police treatment of media in Ferguson.

"The Ferguson Police Department is going to operate the same way we've always operated and our first concern is the safety of the public," said Zoll. "We hope the media is smart enough to take our advice."

Requesters complain of consultant's high FOIA search fees for Ferguson records

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | October 9, 2014
Commentary
October 9, 2014

Multiple news media organizations have filed formal complaints with the Missouri Attorney General over the high fees charged by the city of Ferguson in response to public records requests. The complaints come after reports of journalists being asked to pay up to $2,000 in advance to search through and copy emails and text messages. Thus far, complaints have been filed by the Associated Press, CNN, St. Louis Public Radio, and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

Intercept publisher calls for Ferguson investigation over arrest of reporter

Newsgathering | News | August 28, 2014
News
August 28, 2014

The publisher of The Intercept earlier this week called on the Missouri attorney general to launch an investigation into the arrest of reporter, Ryan Devereaux, during last week's protests in Ferguson, Mo.

First Look Media detailed how Devereaux, while with a reporter from the German newspaper Bild, was interviewing protesters when police started firing tear gas. After leaving the area as instructed, he was hit by rubber bullets fired by police. He was taken to jail, detained overnight and charged with "refusing to disperse." The publisher has not been able to obtain information about the status of the charges against him and police have not returned their calls, the Aug. 25 letter reports.

Media coalition protests police treatment of reporters during Ferguson events

Press Release | August 15, 2014
August 15, 2014
Media coalition protests police treatment of reporters during Ferguson events

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press led a coalition of 48 national media organizations that sent a protest letter objecting to the treatment of reporters during the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown.

The letter was sent to the heads of the city and county police, as well as the state highway patrol.

"Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes," the letter states. "The actions in Ferguson demonstrate a lack of training among local law enforcement in the protections required by the First Amendment as well as the absence of respect for the role of newsgatherers. We implore police leadership to rectify this failing to ensure that these incidents do not occur again."