Three Kentucky journalists who have defied a court order to stop publishing their newspaper under the weekly’s name will fight a possible contempt-of-court citation during a hearing on June 19.
The right of the owner, publisher and editor of the Mountain Citizen in Eastern Kentucky to publish under that name has been in limbo since May 21, when Martin County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Sparks issued a restraining order against the paper.
Owner Lisa Stayton, Editor Gary Ball and Publisher Roger Smith have published four issues under the name Mountain Citizen since the restraining order was issued. Sparks has ordered them to court to explain why he shouldn’t hold them in contempt. If the judge finds them in contempt, the journalists could risk a fine or jail time.
The hearing will be at 9 a.m. in Martin County Circuit Court in Inez, Ky.
The newspaper’s attorney, David Fleenor of Lexington, will argue that the judge should lift the restraining order because the newspaper has a trademark right to use the name.
The newspaper’s problems began in May when John Triplett, former chairman of the Martin County Water Board, claimed the name when the newspaper allowed incorporation papers to lapse. Triplett filed paperwork with the state to acquire the name.
Triplett’s name-grab occurred after the newspaper published stories about problems with the county’s water treatment plant. The newspaper also published photographs of muddy water coming out of faucets.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemns not only the blatant retaliation for coverage of an issue of grave importance to Martin County, but also any possibility that the judge would punish journalists who have a right to publish their newspaper under the name its readers know.
“I hope the citizens of Martin County will see Mr. Triplett’s actions for what they are: an attempt to stifle the truth about a matter of grave public concern,” said Lucy Dalglish, Reporters Committee Executive Director. “Thankfully, thus far his actions have not daunted the owner and staff of the Mountain Citizen.”