All posts tagged: arrests of journalists

When Local Government Bullies the Press

When Local Government Bullies the Press

Until a few months ago, the tiny town of Atmore, Alabama, was perhaps best known for the glitzy casino-and-hotel complex on its northern border and its proximity to the prison where the state carries out executions. Then Stephen Billy decided to pick a fight with the hometown newspaper, the Atmore News. In October, the paper published a story, based on an anonymous leak, revealing that Billy, the county’s district attorney, was conducting a grand-jury investigation into possible financial fraud by the local school system. Shortly thereafter, Billy charged the paper’s publisher, 73-year-old Sherry Digmon, and its only reporter, 69-year-old Don Fletcher, with violating a state secrecy law. Digmon and Fletcher were cuffed by deputies they’d known for years and charged with felonies that could land them in the local prison for up to three years on each count. They maintained they’d merely reported news of importance. That a district attorney would use his official powers to criminalize an act of journalism, in defiance of both the First Amendment and the public interest, generated a brief …