FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 5, 2020
Contact: Diana Mitsu Klos, director of engagement (202) 728-7267/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Student Press Law Center joins Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in calling for Virginia Commonwealth University’s Student Government Association to rectify a newspaper theft and recommit to upholding student journalists’ First Amendment rights. Addressed to SGA President Breanna Harmon, the joint letter outlines how trashing issues to prevent them from reaching readers constitutes a prior restraint and is a form of censorship.
Witnesses reported seeing Harmon and other SGA members swiping stacks of The Commonwealth Times from multiple newsstands on the VCU campus on Feb. 26. The CT editors estimate more than one third of the issues in the newspaper’s weekly circulation were dumped. The theft appears to be an attempt to suppress specific content: the issue contained a front-page story describing the “hostile” and “toxic” environment of SGA, including details about alleged harassment. The First Amendment protects The CT’s coverage of the SGA and upholds the press’s right to scrutinize the actions of public officials.
Although SGA has released an official statement condemning the theft and some SGA members have called for Harmon’s impeachment, SGA still has to remedy the injustice it caused to The CT and its readers. Producing a student newspaper requires time, labor, and resources. The SGA members who emptied newsstands deprived readers of specific content published in the issue, which is their rightful property.
Read the full letter here.