Stop Florida from Restricting the Media’s First Amendment Rights

Target: Florida Governor Rick Scott

Goal: Stop the government from blocking the media’s access to important documents relating to murder cases.

In your face and relentlessly intrusive. These are the first few words that people sometimes associate with the news media, but rarely will you hear “restricted, limited, and blocked.” In fact, the press is oftentimes shut out of access to important information that could change the way the public looks at the truth.

In Florida, the press is seeing its access to documents related to murder trials less open than ever after legislation supported by Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa, passed on June 2. The law bans the release of tapes, photographs, or recordings connected to a murder case to the public. This would be an exception to the state’s open records law, and would allow only family members access without a court order.

This is in clear violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees the public’s right to know. It is crucial for the press to be able to inform the public of the kind of behavior of the people most connected to the case—mainly law enforcement.

Barbara Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation, wrote that, “While videos, photos and audio tapes of these types of events are gruesome, access to them by individuals outside of the government and the media is vital to ensure oversight of governmental action and to ensure governmental officials and employees are held accountable,” in a letter to the governor.


Dear Governor Scott,

While many think the Constitution’s First Amendment includes only the right to freedom of speech and separation of church and state, it in fact involves the public’s right to know information and the public’s right to access information. Unfortunately, legislation sponsored by Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa, that was recently passed is in violation of these First Amendment freedoms.

This law would restrict the public’s access to information about murder cases so that only family members can have the freedom to know such information without a court order.

While it may not seem important or even interesting to everyone, this restriction would limit the public’s knowledge of what really happens in a legal issue that may expose the greater truths about how our justice system operates.

We strongly urge you to revoke this law immediately.


[Your Name Will Go Here]


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One Comment

  1. ‘Sometimes, late at night, I see these streets like no-one else can.
    There’s a lot of things going on that even newspapers don’t understand!
    Some people got too much money,
    Some rob with a gun, some with a ballpoint pen…
    Maybe I’ll buy me a big black cape,
    And then they’ll be running from me…
    Looking over their shoulder for me!’
    (Stan Ridgway)

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