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Jailed Journalist Sends Shocking 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'

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There are other legal principles besides Sullivan and Near being violated in the Shuler case. Among them is due process, which that includes open dockets and open courtrooms.

At the root is basic fairness: the opportunity to be heard, including the opportunity to have a lawyer, or at least paper and pencil and a way to communicate with the courts while not being held in chains and berated by the judge whose appointment is of mysterious origin. I have reported previously on these irregularities, which are too numerous to summarize here again.

Summing Up

In closing, I return to the Sullivan  ruling, whose 50th anniversary is now being widely celebrated in media circles.

The verdict arose from the darkest days of the civil rights struggle in Alabama. The current implications for Shuler are now being ignored by a new generation of law enforcement oppressors in Alabama and also nationwide by relatively comfortable professors and other professionals within the journalistic establishment. They find every excuse, it seems, to avoid to taking a stand.

There is snobbery at work here. Many will rally to the defense of an elite reporter at a major news organization that creates a free press campaign.

Shuler, on the other hand, is one a-person operation. His site was the only one in a ranking of the top 50 legal blogs in the country that was not run with organizational funding. So, he has little if anything to offer his supporters but his writing.

But that is part of a larger tradition. Tom Paine was a mere one-man "blogger" by today's standards, even when his pamphlet Common Sense sold two million copies in the American colonies.

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Barzillai Hudson and George Goodwin, publishers of America's largest newspaper during the Revolutionary War, were sentenced to prison for criticizing President Jefferson, justly famous as an advocate of the free press except apparently in such an instance of criticism of his own presidency.

Not everyone can have the eloquence or important issues of Martin Luther King (shown here in a file photo), Tom Paine, or even Hudson and Goodwin. 

Last week, however, I gained a first-hand sense of passion of the ongoing civil rights struggle from the ministers and other civil rights advocates I met during five days in Selma on my Alabama trip commemorating the Bloody Sunday march of 1965.

Much on the minds of protesters was the Supreme Court's 5-4 cutback last June on Deep South voting rights in Shelby County v. U.S. and the continued imprisonment of Siegelman.

Yet every injustice worth fighting does not need to be of historic scale. We can do something about everyday issues within our control.

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In that spirit, I am asking every reader who made it this far into this column and who is also a member of journalism organization to ask that organization for its stance on the Shuler case.

This is not to say Shuler is correct in his findings or that he should not be punished if proven wrong. That's in the future after due process.

For now, his rights have been stolen. So have ours. Once upon a time, people fought for those rights. Let's do so again today.

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Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author, business strategist, radio host, and longtime non-profit executive based in Washington, DC. His most recent book is "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters," the (more...)

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