ECP responds to cease and desist letter
By 05/23/2008 10:42:00
The Ellis County Press
RED OAK - The Ellis County Press has re-activated a series of comments posted on an article that prompted a Red Oak Planning & Zoning commissioner to threaten legal action if the remarks were not removed.
Chris Moses, who is leading an effort to have a section of Red Oak residents de-annexed from the Ferris Independent School District, sent his two-page letter to the newspaper Wednesday; after consulting with the newspaper's legal staff, publisher Charles Hatfield said the comments would be put back on the Web site.
"It's like suing the phone company because you received a prank call," he said.
In his letter, Moses alleges libel and slanderous statements were committed by David Selman, whose comments called Moses "a troublemaker" and a "bad parent."
"This letter was a declaration of war," said news editor Joey Dauben. "The very forum that provides for Chris' cause to be made public should not be the target here, but some use their titles and positions and think they can coerce and intimidate a newspaper, Web site or blog into complying with what they think the law is.
"I have no problem with Chris personally, but his actions were highly offensive and I take this seriously, because without the First Amendment's protections against political speech, we don't have anything, and Chris is trying to use the legal system to stifle the First Amendment, that's all there is to it."
Hatfield said he would allow for the comments to be posted again, but as a matter of review, the article in question was taken down pending legal review.
"He used his official title as a member of Red Oak's P&Z," Hatfield said. "That's a concern, but we're willing to defend our right to keep a forum for free speech. It's not a wise move on Mr. Moses' part, but we're going to continue to provide this service, no matter how offensive one may find it."