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C-SPAN not free to cover Free Speech Award

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia received an award for his commitment to free speech at a Cleveland City Club Ceremony Wednesday that was, at the request of the justice, closed to TV cameras -- including those of C-SPAN.

"The irony of excluding journalists from an event designed to celebrate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech is obvious to all," protested Radio-Television News Directors Association president Barbara Cochran. "The decision to discriminate against the electronic media, especially when the City Club traditionally allows videotaping of its speakers, is reprehensible."

C-SPAN vice president of programming Terry Murphy said, "For the City Club of Cleveland to bestow `The Citadel of Free Speech Award' on Justice Scalia while consenting to any insistence that television cameras not cover the event begs disbelief and seems to be in conflict with the award itself. How free is speech if there are limits to its distribution?"

The irony was not lost on the City Club either, marketing director Amy Robinson said.

In deciding to honor Scalia's request and go ahead with the presentation, she said trustees made their decision on the strength of Scalia's record on speech issues and the inclusion of reporters, if not cameras, for the event.

Robinson said reporters of all media were free to cover the event and that cameras had been allowed in early to shoot b-roll.

While many club events are televised, she said, others are not, sometimes due to length or lack of TV interest.

She acknowledged, though, that the club has honored C-SPAN requests in the past and did not do so this time at Scalia's behest.

Scalia's representatives could not be reached for comment, but the justice routinely opposes TV cameras in numerous forums, including Supreme Court proceedings.