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Rutherford Institute Warns Against Government Attempts to Intimidate Journalists by Prosecuting Radio Shock Jock Pete Santilli Over Oregon Standoff

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PORTLAND, Oregon — Warning against attempts by the government to intimidate journalists whose reporting portrays the government in a negative light or encourages citizens to challenge government injustice and wrongdoing, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have weighed in on the government’s arrest and ongoing prosecution of radio shock jock Pete Santilli. Santilli, a new media journalist who broadcasts his news reports over YouTube and streaming internet radio, was arrested and has been charged along with seven other individuals connected to the recent occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon. Santilli is the only journalist among those who have been charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their duties by use of force, intimidation, or threats. In advising the public defender about the First Amendment principles at play in Santilli’s case, Rutherford Institute attorneys took issue with the government’s case against Santilli as laid out in its Criminal Complaint, which makes clear that Santilli is being charged solely as a reporter of information and not as an accomplice to any criminal activity.

The Rutherford Institute’s memorandum on the First Amendment rights of journalists and the government’s complaint regarding Santilli are available at www.rutherford.org.

“The FBI’s prosecution of this radio shock jock is consistent with the government’s ongoing attempts to intimidate members of the press who portray the government in a less than favorable light,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “This is not a new tactic. During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, numerous journalists were arrested while covering the regions’ civil unrest and the conditions that spawned that unrest. These attempts to muzzle the press were clearly concerted, top-down efforts to restrict the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and the press. Not only does this tactic silence individual journalists, but it has a chilling effect on the press as a whole, signaling that they will become the target of the government if they provide reporting on these events with a perspective that casts the government in a bad light.” More

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