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City of Sanford says reporters won’t be arrested

This news story was published on March 30, 2012.
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By Susan Jacobson, The Orlando Sentinel –

SANFORD, Fla. — The city of Sanford Thursday night decided that reporters won’t be arrested for pursuing the Trayvon Martin story after normal business hours.

A news release sent Wednesday warned that police would arrest reporters on stalking charges if they contacted city employees when they were off the job. The threat barred reporters from sending emails, calling or approaching workers.

The city a little after 7 p.m. rescinded the release and wrote that it “regrets any inconvenience caused by the improvident wording of the Advisory.”

Officials gave no reason for their change of heart, which came shortly after an attorney representing The Orlando Sentinel and WFTV-Channel 9 wrote to City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. contending that the directive was unconstitutional.

The letter stated that constitutionally protected conduct, such as news gathering, cannot be considered stalking. It also said the city’s directive amounted to censorship.

“Certainly, any city employee is free to decline to answer email or is free to tell a reporter that he or she does not want to answer questions,” wrote Rachel E. Fug ate of Thomas & Loci cero.

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