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Free-speech award ceremony closed to cameras

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Free-speech award ceremony closed to cameras

  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prohibited televised coverage of his appearance to receive a free-speech award.

March 21, 2003 — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prohibited televised coverage of his appearance Wednesday at The City Club of Cleveland, where he received “The Citadel of Free-Speech Award” honoring his support of the First Amendment.

“The irony of excluding journalists from an event designed to celebrate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is obvious to all,” Radio-Television News Directors Association president Barbara Cochran wrote in a March 19 letter to the City Club. “The decision to discriminate against the electronic media, especially when the City Club traditionally allows videotaping of its speakers, is reprehensible.”

The City Club, a free-speech organization, typically allows broadcasting of events, but agreed to ban coverage in response to Scalia’s request.

Although all broadcasting was banned, media attendance was welcomed and encouraged, said City Club marketing director Amy Robinson. Several reporters attended the event.

Scalia was chosen for the award “for his consistent protection of freedom of speech in various forms though cases that have come before the court,” according to an announcement by the City Club.

Scalia was recognized specifically for his crucial vote in overturning a law prohibiting the burning of Texas flags, Robinson said. “If anyone looks fairly at this record, even if they disagree with Justice Scalia’s decision, they will come away understanding that he has been a strong supporter of the First Amendment.”

Scalia has opposed broadcast coverage of other events and his decision regarding Wednesdays’s presentation was not unusual, said James Foster, executive director of the City Club.

“Although the event with Justice Scalia is proceeding today under these circumstances, we hope that the City Club will never again allow it’s function to be closed to journalists from any medium,” Cochran said in her March 19 letter.

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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