WAILUKU, MAUI — The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, a national organization, is set to officially oppose a subpoena by the Maui Police Department and district attorney to release the names of all online commenters to an April 14 story in the Maui Time about the alleged assault of Maui Time publisher Tommy Russo by a police officer during an altercation involving Duane “Dog” Chapman and his entourage.
Many of the comments to the story were highly critical of the Maui police, as were some that were directed at Russo himself.
Russo says that the police officer involved made a statement that Russo provoked the violent assault, a statement which is clearly dubious in light of the video evidence that was taken by Russo himself during the incident.
Below is the text of the official resolution to be voted on by the board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies:
A RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE EFFORTS OF MAUI TIME TO RESIST A SUBPOENA THAT VIOLATES THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE RIGHTS OF THE FREE PRESS
WHEREAS, Tommy Russo, the editor of Maui Time, a member in good standing of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, was involved in an altercation with the Maui police while he was going about the normal business of reporting a news story, and
WHEREAS, Tommy Russo recorded the incident on video and posted the video and a news story on the Maui Time website, and
WHEREAS, A number of Maui Time readers posted comments on the story, some of them highly criticial of the Maui police, and
WHEREAS, The Maui police and district attorney have issued a subpoena demanding that Maui Time turn over identifying information about all commenters on the story over a 24-hour period, and
WHEREAS, the ability to report on incidents of police abuse is a basic function of a free press, and
WHEREAS, the right of the people to comment on matters of public concern is a fundamental principle of the First Amendment, and
WHEREAS, a court order mandating the release to the police of identifying information about anonymous commenters would have a terrible chilling effect on free speech and undermine the rights of a newspaper to protect anonymous comments and sources,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
That the Board of Directors of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies CONDEMNS the attempt by Maui authorities to force this disclosure, and SUPPORTS the right of Maui Time and Tommy Russo to oppose this subpoena and CALLS ON the district attorney of Maui to immediately withdraw this subpoena and cease all efforts to chill the free speech rights of Maui Time readers.