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Newsman files suit over harassment by public officials

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Canton, MS—A Mississippi broadcast journalist is seeking $2 million in damages in a Federal lawsuit stemming from what he claims was a “campaign of retaliation for what he airs on WMGO.”
According to a report in the “Clarion Ledger,” Broadcaster Jerry Lousteau has a suit pending against Canton City Mayor William Truly and Police Chief Vickie McNeil.
The suit claims that Lousteau has been “deprived of his freedom of speech, protection against unreasonable seizures and equal protection and due process,” according to the “Ledger.”
In a March report by Lucy Weber, Lousteau’s attorney Craig Panter said, “This case is about the right of a citizen to be free of government retaliation because of his speech.”
Panter further stated that Lousteau “has been subject to a pattern of harassment because they don’t like what he says and he criticizes their performance of official duties.”
“The Ledger” reports that, “The complaint claims: ‘It can, therefore, be accurately stated that the city of Canton has developed a policy or custom of using city powers and city officials to retaliate against Jerry Lousteau for exercising his constitutional rights and to interfere with his future exercise of those rights.’”
The reports says, “The suit claims that part of the retaliation stems from Lousteau’s broadcast in November 2010.” It is said that in the broadcast Lousteau reported on an investigation of the city’s police chief.
The report dubbed “turkeygate” by Lousteau said, “The police chief was being investigated in connection with her collection of money to buy Christmas turkeys for police officers.”
The suit alleges that city officials tried to have his FCC broadcast license revoked, spread false information to defamed the broadcaster.
Today, across the country, there is an emerging pattern of government officials using the weight of their office to attack journalists.
This has been common practice is communist countries for years. It is also prevalent in third-world where Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) says, “The attack against journalists and the media by the government is coming at a time the government’s effort to fight corruption is waning; and when the government continues to perform poorly in the Transparency… Without press freedom, it is much easier for the government to take away other human rights and to perpetrate official and large scale corruption.”
It seems that some in the US have learned what dictators have always known, that a free press is a danger to corruption.
Lousteau’s case is expected to go before a jury later this year.

Bill Britt
Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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