US Court of Appeals rules against news organizations

Jul 1, 2022

Boycotts are not protected First Amendment speech if a state wants to restrict participation as a condition of doing business with the state, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled at the end of June 2022. The ruling sided against news organizations, including NNA, that had provided an amicus brief authored by Reporters Committee of Freedom of the Press in support of the Arkansas Times, which protested a new Arkansas law.

The case stemmed from a state law requiring contractors to the state to pledge not to participate in a boycott of Israel, a controversy stemming from objections by some to the country’s treatment of Palestinians in settlement territories. Although the Times said it took no position on the boycott, it was required to sign the pledge or take a 20% cut on its advertising rates because it sells advertising to the state university. The Times publisher refused to sign the pledge on principle and petitioned federal courts to rule the statute unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has backed the case, has said it would take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock signed the pledge, according to court records.

NNA has expressed concern that the ruling could empower states to dictate editorial policy to newspapers that accept public notice advertising.