The Tully Center for Free Speech

Free Speech Zone

The Free Speech Zone is an outlet dedicated to exploring First Amendment issues. This page includes articles, editorials and opinion pieces written by those affiliated with the Tully Center for Free Speech at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Many of these articles have been published in local and national publications.

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After 4 damaging years, Biden must restore press freedom

March 4, 2021

When Joe Biden is sworn in as president next month, in addition to containing the Covid-19 pandemic and repairing the economy and international relations, he also has to restore the government’s relationship with the media. It has been damaged by four years of President Donald Trump calling the press the enemy of the people, decrying news as […]

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Is election disinformation free speech or defamation? Courts will decide

March 4, 2021

Even though the 2020 election has been sufficiently settled for almost four months, now, and the results have been certified by legislatures and courts, it is still being fought — now in a series of defamation lawsuits. The latest in these civil lawsuits came Monday when Dominion Voting Systems, one of the voting machine companies repeatedly […]

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The right to vote is ‘the essence of a democratic society.’ Exercise it.

November 12, 2020

Four years ago, more than 130 million Americans voted in the presidential election. Through the swirling chaos of this year’s election, experts predict an even more robust voter turnout. So far, two weeks before the election, 25 million have already voted, largely attributed to both the heightened interest in the election and the Covid-19 crisis. […]

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Why individuals, not governments, should safeguard free speech

November 12, 2020

In late May, as protests raged throughout the country and the coronavirus pandemic spread, President Trump signed a directive titled “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship.” It contains magnanimous pronouncements about the importance of free speech and First Amendment protections. The opening reads like the kind of declaration that should end up on a parchment scroll or […]

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Trump, Twitter and the distraction of censorship

June 4, 2020

The day after the country broke the mark of 100,000 dead of Covid-19, unemployment reached 40 million and a major midwestern city burned after riots following another racial police brutality death, President Donald Trump signed an executive order attacking social media. Read the article>>

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The public needs information during a public health crisis

March 31, 2020

Aside from exposing deficiencies in our public health systems and emergency preparedness planning, the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the public’s need for honest, open and truthful information from government sources. It has also shown the importance of strong, independent and local media.

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Answer to hate speech is more speech: Roy S. Gutterman

January 6, 2020

The answer to offensive speech is more speech. The “more speech” doctrine is part of our democratic view of how government regulates (or does not regulate) speech. At a time when there are more ways to communicate to more people, offensive speech, so-called hate speech, is in full bloom. This has not only been part […]

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Assange case could make news reporting a crime

June 13, 2019

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have edged closer and closer to the precipice of a slippery slope that could end up criminalizing a range of newsgathering activities and holding journalists criminally responsible when they receive leaked documents. Assange, the controversial and flamboyant founder of WikiLeaks, is half a world away in England as he faces extradition […]

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Trump’s war against the press harms our democracy

February 25, 2017

This article appeared on Feb. 24, 2017 The press is not the enemy of the American people. In his latest salvo, President Donald Trump is continuing his war of words against the press, or the media. His anti-press rhetoric was a central theme of his campaign and has followed him into the White House. […]

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License Plates and Free Speech (Not)

June 22, 2015

The Supreme Court’s decision that motor vehicle license plates are not a public forum for free speech presents an interesting answer to the question of a venue in which the government’s right to control government property intersects with the public’s First Amendment right to free speech.

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The Year in Free Speech: 2014

December 31, 2014

From the Michael Brown shooting protests in Ferguson, Missouri, to crackdowns on journalists covering those protests to the murder and imprisonment of journalists around the world, free speech issues became part of both the national and international dialogue in 2014.

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Tough Questions from Moscow

November 30, 2014

Students pose questions about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and offered skepticism about the independence of American media.

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Harassing the Press in Missouri

August 14, 2014

The arrest and harassment of reporters for The Washington Post and The Huffington Post during the civil unrest and riots in Ferguson, Missouri shows that during tragedies and major news events, like riots, the press is at risk.

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Decision: Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus

June 16, 2014

Two political action groups challenging an Ohio law that imposes criminal sanctions for false political campaign statements have legal standing to challenge that law, the United States Supreme Court ruled Monday.

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Sunshine Week

March 21, 2014

This is Sunshine Week, a week dedicated to shining light on public information and the workings of government. An homage to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous statement that sunshine is the best disinfectant, press rights groups, open government advocates and regular citizens have been marking this week since 2005.

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Reporting Olympics for non-existent agency

February 7, 2014

With many eyes on the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia continues a free speech crackdown. The biggest Russian news agency RIA Novosti got “liquefied” in December 2013 with President Putin’s decree.

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Duck and Roll

December 23, 2013

“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson made homophobic and racist comments in an interview. The ensuing controversy raises two questions: 1) should we be surprised that this guy harbors offensive beliefs? and 2) why do we care what he thinks in the first place?

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American graffiti

December 11, 2013

Rather than writing a letter to the editor, gathering for a peaceful protest on the Quad or the Schine Student Center atrium or posting signs in the grassy strip between Schine and Newhouse, the vandals chose to spray paint their messages on campus buildings.

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A Constitution Day Plea against NSA Surveillance

September 17, 2013

While government surveillance and opacity are not wholly new, the recent revelations of NSA metadata collection and activity exceeds the scope of all previously known examples of government overstepping.

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Supporting the Liberian Journalist

September 2, 2013

Liberian journalist Rodney Sieh was sent to jail last week in Monrovia. He was essentially imprisoned because of the stories he published in his newspaper, FrontPage Africa. Rodney’s case may be on the other side of the globe, far removed from our cozy world in Syracuse and at Syracuse University. But it should not be.

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Pranks and Errors

July 18, 2013

The airplane crash dominated the news for a whole weekend a few weeks ago until the next big news broke.  Just as the story of the dramatic Asiana Airlines crash began to fade from the public’s attention, a television report catapulted it back into the news cycle. When a San Francisco-area television station reported, or […]

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Hustler v. Falwell: 25 Years of Protected Satire

February 28, 2013

The landmark Supreme Court case Hustler v. Falwell turned 25 this week. When a Supreme Court precedent reaches this age, its legacy is either firmly developed or lost to the history books. Hustler v. Falwell’s scope continues to grow and the precedent helps not only to clarify important First Amendment principles, but to protect them […]

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Freedom of Information Challenge

February 19, 2013

The Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments Wednesday in a challenge to a state’s freedom of information law, which bars out-of-state citizens from obtaining public records within the state. The case, McBurney v. Young, is a challenge to Virginia’s freedom of information law.  The petitioners are: Mark McBurney, a former Virginia resident who now […]

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Free Speech Year in Review: 2012

December 31, 2012

There was a lot of free speech going on this past year and some of it was even protected.  The multi-billion dollar election was the first presidential election to test the Citizens United case and there was plenty of money spent on campaigns and their advertisements.  That, the Supreme Court has said, is protected by […]

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The Photo Controversy and the First Amendment

December 12, 2012

The independence of the American press is again being called into question thanks to the gripping photograph published on the front page of The New York Post  last week. The dramatic image of a man clinging to a New York City subway platform, struggling to lift himself from the tracks and the inevitable path of […]

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Speech, Films and Broccoli

October 3, 2012

Here in the United States, we cherish the right to dissent, to criticize our leaders, even to insult them. The First Amendment protects this and much more.  The recent explosion of anti-American vitriol, culminating in riots all over the world, shows not only how different our democratic values are from other societies, but how we […]

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Costly Cursing

September 5, 2012

A four-letter word got another high school student in trouble, and it was not even one of the “bad” words.  After a high school valedictorian in Oklahoma used the well-worn question “How the hell do I know?” in a speech, school officials withheld her diploma. In her remarks at graduation, Kaitlin Nootbaar dropped the “offensive” […]

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Empowering Independent Media and Press Freedom

May 3, 2012

The First Amendment not only affords journalists some protections to report and investigate news, tell stories and publish without oppressive government interference, but it also ostensibly grants citizens access to information unfiltered by the government. There are many places around the world where citizens are deprived of a free press and independent media. Though the […]

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Cyberspeech and the Schoolhouse Gate

March 19, 2012

When shots rang out at Chardon High School outside Cleveland, Ohio, last month those scrambling for information turned to Twitter where students trapped in the locked-down school were breaking the story as it was unfolding. “Shots in the school. What the heck. This is messed up” tweeted senior Seanna Sicher while another student with the […]

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Lies, Lies and Questionable Lies

February 22, 2012

The lies Xavier Alvarez propagated were extensive and far-reaching. He claimed to be a professional hockey player, that he was married to a Mexican starlet, that he had a role in rescuing an American ambassador from the Iranian hostage crisis and that he served heroically as a U.S. Marine and had been awarded numerous military […]

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Occupy Surveillance

February 20, 2012

In the early morning hours of May 31, 2011, as Memorial Day revelers stumbled out of clubs and bars on Miami’s South Beach, Miami Beach police were surrounding an idling car on busy Collins Avenue, guns drawn. As shots rang out Narces Benoit, a bystander who happened to be in the vicinity, did what many […]

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The First Amendment and the Primary

January 31, 2012

In the week preceding the highly anticipated New Hampshire presidential primary, the First Amendment was in full application. Accompanying a group of political reporting students covering the primary for newspapers and radio stations, I had the opportunity to spend a week in New Hampshire watching the Republican candidates slug it out.  Attending several campaign events […]

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What Wikileaks and SOPA Have In Common

January 19, 2012

Last year, as U.S. government officials publicly scrambled to mitigate the damage (mostly to egos) caused by the leak of thousands of military documents and diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks, privately a bi-partisan effort was underway to permanently silence the website. The objective: to send a stern and unmistakable warning to potential copycats – “leak […]

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Free Speech Year in Review: 2011

December 28, 2011

Free speech dominated this year.  Despotic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were overturned after protestors filled the streets and public squares, speaking out for change.  Fueled by social media, the so-called “Arab Spring” not only took down strongmen dictators, but also inspired Americans to get out and protest. The Occupy Wall Street movement, which was […]

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The Picket That Never Was… But Still a Speech

December 6, 2011

Though the Westboro Baptist Church never showed Friday night at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome, all was not lost. The much-anticipated appearance by members of the controversial church known for inflammatory messages prompted an animated, vocal, even festive counter protest, primarily by Syracuse University students. Their chants could be heard down Irving Avenue and around the […]

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Cyberbullying: Fighting back with the First Amendment

November 17, 2011

On September 26th the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a caucus comprised of four Democratic members of the New York State Senate, released a paper titled “Cyberbullying: A Report on Bullying for the Digital Age.” Responding to growing concern over a string of youth suicides in which social media and the Internet played a role, the […]

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Banned Book Week and Freedom of Thought

September 28, 2011

Central New York is not in the “Ring of Fire” where earthquakes are common. But when an earthquake hit Virginia in August, buildings here shook pretty substantially, too.  The analysts said: it’s rare, but it sometimes happens. The same can be said for book challenge controversies in our schools and public libraries. Book censorship locally […]

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Speech in public places

September 13, 2011

James Deferio has a message he wants to disseminate.  He wants to share his beliefs on college campuses.  When the State University of New York at Albany demanded he apply for a revocable permit 30 days in advance, make a series of guarantees and pony up $50 for a processing fee as well as rental […]

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