'Sun' ban ruling draws media concerns

Baltimore: A federal judge on Monday upheld Gov. Robert Ehrlich's (R) ban on two Baltimore Sun journalists, raising concerns within the media about the legal precedent set by the ruling.

Baltimore: A federal judge on Monday upheld Gov. Robert Ehrlich's (R) ban on two Baltimore Sun journalists, raising concerns within the media about the legal precedent set by the ruling.

In December, citing inaccuracies in coverage, Ehrlich issued an order prohibiting state employees from speaking to David Nitkin, state bureau chief, and columnist Michael Olesker.

The Sun filed suit against Ehrlich, seeking to have the ban overturned as a violation of its First Amendment rights.

But US District Judge William Quarles rejected that argument, stating in his decision: "Sun seeks a privileged status beyond that of the private citizen; that desire is not a cognizable basis for injunctive relief."

The Baltimore Sun plans to appeal the decision.

Dr. Jeff McCall, professor of communication at DePauw University, believes the Sun might have made a mistake by pushing the issue. "Now they have a court ruling against them," he said. "The message this sends to other government officials is ... 'If you've got reporters you don't like talking to, go ahead and freeze them out. And you've got a legal basis to do it.'"

Irwin Gratz, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said Ehrlich's ban on the journalists allows him to make editorial decisions for the newspaper. "That's a violation of the First Amendment.

"This is a very important issue," he added. "I think it has the potential to send a very bad message to the public at large, to other public officials in other states all across the country."

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