Prior restraint lifted from Orlando’s WKMG-TV

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Florida television station forbidden to broadcast news reports about an election-law scandal can now air the stories after a judge altered his original injunction.

Florida 9th Circuit Court Senior Judge Rom Powell on Feb. 12 changed his initial injunction, saying WKMG-TV Channel 6 in Orlando could air some of its investigative reports about political consultant Doug Guetzloe. The reports were based on 84 boxes of documents that the station obtained at an auction.

The original injunction imposing prior restraint on WKMG was issued Feb. 2 and Powell initially refused to change his decision. WKMG filed an appeal in the 5th District Court of Appeal in Florida to vacate the order and allow the station to broadcast the reports.

Powell repealed most of his order, but said certain documents could not be revealed: Guetzloe’s and his immediate family’s medical records or papers related to mental and physical health, as well as any kind of communication between Guetzloe and his attorneys. Powell also required that the station give Guetzloe’s attorneys access to the documents.

A Florida state attorney has also filed a request in the 9th Judicial Circuit for WKMG to turn over the 84 boxes of material because they may contain evidence of crimes. Florida law allows reporters not to turn over information unless a judge rules that there is a compelling reason to subpoena. Judicial Circuit Judge Lisa Munyon said she would rule after she hears from Guetzloe’s attorneys.

According to its Web site, WKMG is appealing Powell’s latest ruling because the station says it still violates the First Amendment in that it would not allow reports containing medical information and communication between Guetzloe and his attorneys to air.

The station began broadcasting the reports on Feb. 12.

Melanie Bengtson is an intern at the First Amendment Center and a sophomore studying developmental politics at Belmont University.

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