The Authors Guild, in keeping with its cornerstone commitment to support free speech, has recently joined the Media Coalition, a non-profit association dedicated to protecting First Amendment rights. The Coalition, founded in 1973, looks to provide a unified voice for all stakeholders whose work depends upon First Amendment protections. It advises legislatures on pending legislation, files legal challenges and amicus briefs, and advocates publicly for preserving free speech. Since the Guild will be focusing on issues of freedom and diversity of expression in the coming year, our Coalition membership should prove timely and invigorating.
In becoming part of the Coalition, the Guild joins the literary organizations, American Booksellers for Free Expression (a sub-group of the American Booksellers Association), the Association of American Publishers, and the Freedom to Read Foundation, as well as organizations representing other media such as film, software, and comic books.
The Coalition recently exemplified its work when it came to the defense of a local bookstore owner in Saugerties, New York. Brian Donoghue, the owner of the Inquiring Minds Bookstore, had put up a display in his window featuring books about then-Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and about the history of Nazi Germany, a banner with Trump’s name over a swastika, and a quotation about the dangers of not speaking out against hate. After Donoghue received zoning citations, the Media Coalition Foundation provided him with an attorney who informed the village their citations were in violation of Donoghue’s First Amendment rights, and ultimately he was able to keep the display up through Election Day, after which he decided to remove it.
The Authors Guild has worked with the Media Coalition Foundation before, most recently in July when both organizations joined a friend of the court brief supporting a First Amendment challenge to an Idaho law prohibiting the clandestine recording of factory farming practices. The brief argued that the law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and, specifically, on investigative journalism. The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and has yet to be decided.
Facing what appears to be an increasingly hostile environment, it will be important for authors, publishers, and distributors of all types of media to vigorously protect their First Amendment rights. The Guild looks forward to being a part of the Media Coalition as we continue to protect freedom of expression for our members and authors everywhere.