The Boston Herald has a splendid editorial today on Judge Merita Hopkins’ unconstitutional order preventing WHDH-TV (Channel 7) from reporting on the Boston firefighters’ autopsy documents. After asserting that Hopkins is the first judge to exercise prior restraint against the media since the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, the editorial continues:
There is no more sacred corollary to the First Amendment than the prohibition against prior restraint — something which apparently eluded Judge Hopkins. The news media are perfectly willing to take our lumps after the fact — fines, civil suits, even getting thrown in jail for refusal to name sources. That is often the price we pay for exercising those freedoms.
I’m not sure about the Herald’s Pentagon Papers citation. At the very least, we know that a federal district-court judge in 1979 stopped the Progressive magazine from publishing an article purporting to show how to build a hydrogen bomb, even though the article was based on publicly available reference materials.
Even so, the fact that the Progressive case invoked the specter of millions of people dying serves to underscore the trivial, ludicrous nature of Hopkins’ special favor to the firefighters union. The overturning of her ill-considered order shouldn’t be the end of this. Good for the Herald for speaking out.
I would like to watch Channel 7’s Andy Hiller, who has a commentary titled “Free Speech v. Privacy Rights” on the WHDH Web site. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to load despite trying several different tricks on both a Mac and a Windows-based PC. Perhaps you’ll have better luck.