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Thomas Jefferson Center announces 2014 Jefferson Muzzle awards

CagedLiberty [1]Violators of freedom of expression are the “winners” of the 2014 Jefferson Muzzle Awards [2] from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression [3] in Charlottesville. Now in their 23rd year, the Muzzles are announced during the week of Mr. Jefferson’s birthday (April 13).

The ten recipients this year include three educational institutions, three state government agencies, and four federal government agencies. They were announced via a press release on Thursday, April 10.

The awards include implicit criticism of the White House press office for limiting access to the news media to even trivial events and of the Department of Justice for “secretly seiz[ing] dozens of phone records of the Associated Press and falsely label[ing] Fox News reporter James Rosen a criminal ‘co-conspirator’ in order to obtain a search warrant for the reporter’s phone records and emails.”

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security are joint recipients of a Muzzle

For causing an online retailer to remove from its website a Minnesota man’s products satirizing various government entities on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other items. Zazzle.com pulled the items from its marketplace after receiving cease and desist letters from the NSA and Homeland Security. Among the items removed were products featuring a variation of the NSA seal along with the statement “The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.”

The North Carolina General Assembly police are cited for arresting a reporter who was covering a protest at the state capitol, while the Tennessee General Assembly gets dinged for criminalizing undercover reporting at agricultural facilities.

The Kansas Board of Regents receives a 2014 Muzzle award because

Following controversial statements by a member of the University of Kansas faculty on his personal Twitter account, the Kansas Board of Regents (the governing board of the state’s public universities) adopted a social media policy that allows for the firing of a faculty member for using social media in such a way that “impairs…harmony among co-workers,” or that the university’s chief executive officer deems “contrary to the best interest of the university.”

A Florida high school principal gets an award for cutting off the microphone of a graduation speaker who was stumbling over his words and then denying the student an opportunity to accept his diploma with the rest of the class. His reason? He thought the stumbling was an attempt to go “off script” on the approved text of the speech.

The principal of Pemberton High School in New Jersey wins a Muzzle for censoring two articles in the student newspaper, and then forbidding the same newspaper from publishing an article about censorship.

My favorite 2014 Muzzle concerns a case that received a lot of publicity last September. At Modesto Junior College in California, a student was refused permission to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day. Here’s the Thomas Jefferson Center’s citation:

Campus police confronted Robert van Tuinen outside the student center as he handed out free copies of the Constitution to his fellow students on September 17—Constitution Day. Officers informed van Tuinen that school policy only permitted literature to be distributed within a tiny designated spot on campus, and only then if scheduled several days in advance.

If you missed the widely-distributed video of this incident [4], here it is:

To hear Thomas Jefferson Center director Josh Wheeler talk about how the Muzzle Award winners are determined, check out this interview on The Score [5].

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