The Mississippi Senate added a heinous amendment to an already bad bill late Tuesday afternoon and then passed it, creating a situation which simply cannot be tolerated.
Senate Bill 2237 was already bad enough in that it protected, by making secret, the names of the manufacturers of drugs used in executions. If there is anything that should be completely transparent, it is everything related to the state’s taking the life of one of its citizens.
But prior to passage, a Gulf Coast senator apparently unaware of the contents of the First Amendment or the concept of Freedom of the Press, amended the bill with language which prohibits any reporters present at an execution from revealing the names of anyone else present and creates civil penalties for any one that does.
And that, known as “prior restraint,” is clearly, on its face, unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly said so. The Mississippi Legislature cannot tell a reporter what he or she can or cannot report and a newspaper publisher what he or she can or cannot publish.
Even attempting to do so erodes away the very foundation upon which Freedom of the Press exists.
This bill, as amended has gone from bad to tyrannical and the Mississippi Press Association is unified in its intent to try to legislatively change the bill to remove its most offensive and damaging language, and in the event that effort is not successful, is committed to challenging it in court on solid constitutional grounds.
If the members of the Legislature are bound and determined to pass SB 2237, then so be it, but they must do so only after removing the entirety of its prior restraint element, which rightfully should send chills down the spine of every Mississippian who values the civil liberties guaranteed by a free and unfettered press.
This is Mississippi, not the old Soviet Union, not some banana republic, and this cannot be allowed to stand.
— The Deer Creek Pilot, Rolling Fork