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ATLANTA – Yesterday, the ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office regarding a complaint about an alleged new policy that banned the Marietta Daily Journal in the Detention Center. The Sheriff has issued a statement confirming that “[o]n one occasion the paper was not disseminated due to its possible impact on the safety and security of our staff and inmates. In conjunction with the writer and editor of the paper we were notified of the publishing date and on that one occasion the paper was not disseminated.”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits viewpoint discrimination. The Sheriff cannot reject a publication simply because he disagrees with that publication’s political viewpoint.
Though this incident is alleged to be a one-time occurrence, it is unclear what standard, protocol, or criteria was used to sanction government censorship of the newspaper delivery to its subscribers. Without an appropriate standard, protocol, or criteria, it is hard to know whether this censorship was potentially arbitrary, a result of the Sheriff’s personal disagreement with the paper’s content, or a legitimate justification.
“Freedom of the press means that government officials don’t get to censor the editorial judgment of newspapers,” said Kosha Tucker, staff attorney of the ACLU of Georgia. “This is exactly the kind of government censorship that is potentially unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down.”