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Near vs. Minnesota – how censorship was banned in America

Posted by: | September 29, 2010 | No Comment |
from chicagohistoryjournal.com

front page of the Saturday Press

The Saturday Press was established in 1927 in Minneapolis by Jay Near and Howard Guilford. The Saturday Press wrote stories which claimed that there were ties between organized crime, the police and city officials.

Every issue in the Saturday Press attacked some aspect of the government in Minneapolis, especially the city and county officials. When the Saturday Press attacked county prosecutor, Floyd Olson, he filed a complaint under the Public Nuisance Abatement Law charging that the Saturday Press had defamed various politicians, the county grand jury and the Jewish community.

The Public Nuisance Abatement Law was known as a gag law because it authorized prior restraint. Prior restraint allowed officials to stop a newspaper from publishing any article of which officials disapproved. This action effectively shut down the Saturday Press.

Jay Near first looked for help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), but received most of his help from Robert McCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. While the Chicago Tribune was a large newspaper, McCormick did not


Robert McCormick at his Tribune company desk

want to run the risk that the Minnesota law would come to Illinois and shut his paper down too.

Jay Near’s case went to the Supreme Court which found that the Public Nuisance Abatement Law violated both the First and the Fourteenth Amendments. Government officials could not prevent newspapers from publishing stories they did not like. Officials could only object to stories once they had been published.

Because of this court case, the United States has more freedom of the press than any other country in the world.

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