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.
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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>>
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.
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 […]
October 7, 2019
A federal court recently ruled that politicians can’t block followers on Twitter. The decision came after critics of President Trump sued him because he blocked them on the platform. The court ruled that followers would miss out on access to politicians and public information provided by them, and that violates their First Amendment rights.
September 23, 2019
Between an offensive tweet and a significant revision, The New York Times’ handling of a new sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh attracted almost as much attention as the accusation itself.
September 10, 2019
President, other politicians can’t block Twitter followers from participating in the free exchange of ideas, writes SU free speech expert.
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 […]
March 8, 2019
70 years ago today, Irving Feiner was hauled off his soapbox because police feared he would start a riot. The “heckler’s veto” is still with us.
January 25, 2019
Some stories are too good to be true. Disputed BuzzFeed report on Michael Cohen might be one of those stories, writes our guest columnist, a media law expert.
June 5, 2018
Maltese journalist assassinated by a car bomb exemplifies the courage of reporters who risk their lives to expose corruption and report on war, writes our guest columnist.
January 19, 2018
The president doesn’t have the power to overturn centuries of legal doctrine and case law, writes First Amendment expert. His derision encourages others to attack the media.
December 15, 2017
FCC decision gives internet service providers the power to throttle or block our access, limits that go to the heart of being full, well-rounded citizens, writes our guest columnist.
October 27, 2017
Campuses have always been hotbeds of protest. The politics have changed, with many on the political right feeling their views are being shut down, writes our guest columnist.
February 25, 2017
This article appeared on Syracuse.com 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. […]
November 7, 2016
The so-called “ballot selfie” is testing the boundaries of modern voting regulations, the legal limits on social media and the First Amendment.
September 2, 2016
In modern professional sports, Colin Kaepernick’s stand (or seat) is a rare and welcome example of high-profile, highly-paid athletes taking a stand on important public issues.
June 21, 2016
Ray Caputo with News 96.5 WDBO in Orlando asked Tully Center Director Roy Gutterman to comment on the FBI’s decision to redact parts of the Orlando 911 call transcript.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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” […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]