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SPJ applauds Georgia judges for upholding First Amendment


10/15/2014


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 15, 2014

Contacts:
Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President-Elect, 804.873.1893, pfletcher.spj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317.361.4134, jroyer@spj.org
Taylor Carlier, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317.920.4785, tcarlier@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists applauds Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge Kenneth Sissel and DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker for upholding the First Amendment and helping to protect a journalist’s right to do his job.

Thomas Owens, a candidate for DeKalb County commissioner, sought a temporary protective order after George Chidi, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and freelance journalist, published a story about Owens’ years-long history of police reports and restraining orders filed against him, a no-contest plea by Owens to stalking and a legal accusation calling for unpaid child support.

“I considered it irresponsible not to make every possible effort to give Mr. Owens an opportunity to offer his side of the story, and to help correct inaccuracies before publication,” Chidi explained in a blog post at www.georgechidi.com.

Judge Becker today dismissed the protective order Owens had filed against Chidi earlier this month, saying Owens should have expected reporters to be persistent in asking questions, and that is the price one pays when running for political office.

Judge Sissel threw out an application for a warrant on stalking charges by Thomas Owens against Chidi on Tuesday.

“SPJ congratulates Judge Sissel and Judge Becker for upholding the rights of journalists to interview, report and write about their subjects,” said SPJ President-elect Paul Fletcher. “Their common sense approach in throwing both of these cases out of court shows that our judicial system works and ensures that the First Amendment still protects the rights of journalists.”

Sharon Dunten, SPJ Georgia Chapter President, attended the hearing today in support of Chidi and offered any assistance that might be needed at the local level.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.

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