Secular Talk: Judge Has Journalist Arrested for Using Freedom of Information Act

It seems that freedom of the press is under attack all around the world. Erdogan, the wannabe Ottoman Sultan of Turkey, has made himself notorious for jailing anyone, journalist or not, who dares criticise him. John Kampfner, in his book, Freedom for Sale, describes the clampdown on press and media freedom across the world, in Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Dubai and Russia. And now America. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski comments on a Vice Report about the arrest of a journalist in the US state of Georgia, Mark Thomason, and his lawyer, Russell Stookey, by the chief judge of Pickens County superior Court, Brenda Weaver. Thomason’s the publisher of a small, local newspaper, Fannin Focus. They were arrested on charges of identity fraud and making false statements. Thomason’s real crime was making official requests for public documents on illegally cashed cheques. He and Stookey also issued subpoenas to the court’s banks to get them to provide information on this issue. Weaver claims that Thomason made false statements when filing the official requests, and that he did not ask her permission, when issuing the subpoenas, and so was attempting to steal that information on the banking details. Weaver also stated that she resented Thomason’s weekly attacks on her character in his paper, saying, ‘I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned.’

Kulinski points out that this is indirect violation of the amendments in the Constitution guaranteeing the freedom of the press. He points out that she had the two arrested not for slander or libel, but simply because she didn’t like what he said about her. She is the criminal in this case, who for her attack on one of America’s fundamental freedoms should be jailed instead of the journo and his lawyer.

I know this is an American case, but I’m posting it because, along with the good and noble stuff we’ve had come across the Pond – MLK, Civil Rights, the Freedom of Information Act, and Elvis – our politicians seem determined also to pick up every wretched, degrading idea as well. Like workfare, which first emerged under the Republicans, and was being touted over here by the Conservatives under Thatcher. Mike and the other disability activists have been given the run-around by the DWP when they’ve tried to use in the British Freedom of Information Act to get the info on the number of disabled people, who’ve died after being wrongly declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos and its successor, Maximus. The DWP first of all declared that the requests were frivolous. Then, when this was overturned on appeal, they delayed releasing the information, and waited till almost the very last minute before appealing against the decision, and then, after they were told to release it, they cavilled against the terms of the request, and deliberately misinterpreted them so that they could issue the wrong information.

And then Ian Duncan Smith had the sheer audacity to pretend to break out in tears during an interview with Ian Hislop on Channel 4, to show he genuinely cared about the unemployed. This was after he and his boss, David Cameron, were shown having a jolly old guffaw in parliament when a Labour MP was reading out tales of the hardship the government sanctions had caused. They looked like the Chuckle Brothers, if those stalwarts of British children’s television had made the weird decision to make their characters grotesque old Etonian snobs.

And then the Tories a few months ago held an inquiry on making the terms of the Freedom of Information Act even narrower, so the public would not be able to get access to so much government information. They did so, because they didn’t like the power it gave citizens like Mike and so many other activists to challenge government decisions. Rather than being used for this purpose, the government issued a statement that the information provided under the Act should only be used to understand how a decision was made. In other words, shut up, you proles, and obey.

If Brenda Weaver gets away with this in America, I can see it spreading to this country. You can read in Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column, week in, week out, reports of how local authorities up and down Britain have tried to imprison ordinary people for daring to criticise them on blogs, in the press and even for notices they’ve put on the windows of their own property. In one particularly hilarious incident down here in the West Country, a parish councillor in Compton Dando went berserk and was trying to have arrested the appalling felon, who stuck a picture of him as Adolf Hitler in the local public call box. The fiend! But I can see the big boys and girls further up the food chain – Cameron, IDS, Jeremy Hunt and now Theresa May, as being equally, if not more eager, to have journalists arrested for spreading the wrong message, if they could. The DWP’s constant delays and appeals under IDS certainly shows that it doesn’t want to co-operate in releasing embarrassing information. And I can see IDS ordering the arrest of journalists under trumped up charges for maligning him, if he could get away with it. This is the man, after all, who turns up in parliament with an armed guard, just in case he’s attacked by a squad of elite ninja disabled people and their careers. This is the man, after all, who has made up lie after lie about himself, having qualifications he does not possess and serving as a major in the army, when he was returned to unit. Probably. Just before he left the DWP he was whining about getting the blame for welfare-to-work, when it was Labour that invented it. Well, so they did, but he could have discontinued it. He didn’t, and so he deserves the condemnation he got. And the probable new leader of the Tories, Theresa May, is an authoritarian, who wants access to everyone’s internet and phone data. Just in case we’re all members of ISIS or paedos.

If this gang of would-be tyrants think they can get away with arresting people for using the Freedom of Information Act, they will.

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One Response to “Secular Talk: Judge Has Journalist Arrested for Using Freedom of Information Act”

  1. 61chrissterry Says:

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry.

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