Arenac County Sheriff Should Not Prosecute Publishers of Anonymous Newsletter

September 04, 2008

DETROIT—In a letter today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan urged the Arenac County Sherriff to publicly declare that he has no intention of initiating a prosecution of the publishers of the Arenac County Town Crier, an anonymous newsletter, which has openly criticized the Sherriff and other elected officials.“The mere suggestion that the Town Crier’s publishers could be prosecuted raises serious concerns about freedom of the press in Arenac County,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “We hope that Sherriff Bouldin will help us uphold the Constitution by ensuring that the residents of Arenac County know that their local law enforcement officials are not in the business of suppressing their constitutional rights.”

Recently, an advertisement appeared in the Arenac County Independent that offered a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the publishers of the Town Crier and later states that those with information should contact Arenac County Sheriff Ronald Bouldin. 

“We do not know who publishes the Arenac County Town Crier, or what their motivations for remaining anonymous may be,” wrote the ACLU.  “But their right to continue doing so without fear of prosecution is based on a long American tradition of free political debate.  Unlike repressive countries like China and Iran, in our country the remedy for speech with which we disagree is more speech, not censorship.”

There is a rich history of anonymous political speech in the United States and the Supreme Court has ruled that anonymous speech is protected by the constitution.   In fact, many of the Founding Fathers published anonymous political writings —the Federalist Papers, which argued for the ratification of the Constitution, were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton  and John Jay under the name “Publius.”

To read the letter, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pdf/arenaccountyletter.pdf

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