PEN Sues: It Is Up to Those of Us Who Depend Upon A Free Press To Rise In Defense Of It

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Conceding Trump's right to abuse, demean or even noxiously slam journalists as "enemies of the people" but fiercely rejecting his right to use the power or machinery of the government to shut them up, or try to, PEN America, representing thousands of writers and journalists, has filed a federal lawsuit against him. The suit, authored by Protect Democracy and Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, was filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. Charging that punitive acts by Trump have "violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution," it seeks to stop him from from ordering any employee, agency, or government entity to "retaliate or threaten reprisals" against any negative coverage or gutsy journalists he happens to dislike - ie: the sort of thing he has repeatedly, increasingly engaged in, and that the courts have found illegal. Trump "has First Amendment rights and is free to criticize the press vehemently," the suit reads, "but he is not free to use the power and authority of the United States government to punish and stifle it."

In this era of incessant, specious tirades against “fake news,” PEN charges, Trump uses “retaliatory directives (and ) credible public threats" against news organizations who challenge him - browbeating book authors who call out his lying buffoonery, urging the firing of journalists who do the same, threatening Bezos' Washington Post (with anti-trust action) and Amazon (with higher shipping costs), and bad-mouthing CNN, NBC and any other media presence that affronts his pathologically fragile sense of self. The suit notes legal precedent is against him: In at least two cases - of a public official who "tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas" through threats or who intimates “some form of punishment or adverse regulatory action will follow" -  such acts were found to violate the vital tenets of the First Amendment. Even in this "bare-knuckled political moment," Politico notes, Trump's ongoing hostility toward the media's legally protected speech eerily echoes authoritarian regimes around the world. "It is up to those of us who depend upon a free press," they write, "to rise in defense of it."

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Crowds jeering Jim Acosta at the infamous Tampa rally. Twitter photo

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