Panel at URI to discuss ‘What Happened to First Amendment During the Bush Administration?’

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KINGSTON, R.I. —September 3, 2008—A panel discussion entitled “What Happened to the First Amendment During the Bush Administration?” will be held at the University of Rhode Island on Monday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public, the program will be held in Room 271, Chafee Social Science Center, 10 Chafee Road, Kingston.

Panelists are Jim Taricani, investigative reporter for NBC-10 WJAR; Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; Robert Flanders, former justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court; and Linda Lotridge Levin, URI journalism professor and chair of URI’s Journalism Department. Gil Klein from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. will moderate the panel. Martin Pottle, president of the state’s Foreign Affairs Committee, will introduce the program.

Professor Levin, who has written and spoken extensively about First Amendment issues over the years, said that since 9/11, the Bush administration has violated the First Amendment rights of citizens and the press by, among other things, prohibiting free speech by the use of illegal wire taps; closing down public access to government records that previously were open; prosecuting journalists for revealing confidential sources, and monitoring public rallies in disregard of the right to peacefully assemble. She said the panelists will explore some of these violations and discuss the future of the First Amendment.

The panel discussion is sponsored by the URI Department of Journalism, the National Press Club, and the World Affairs Council of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Press Association. As part of its 100th birthday celebration, the Press Club is hosting forums in cities and journalism schools around the country to help promote the First Amendment and freedom of the press and to look at where the journalism profession is heading.