Threat shows mayor doesn’t understand value of free press

  • Friday, January 12, 2018 1:28pm
  • Opinion

A free press is a government watchdog.

A free press is fundamental to democracy.

A free press is protected by the First Amendment.

Langley Mayor Tim Callison seemed to forget all of this when he threatened to sue the newspaper for libel if a local resident’s assertions regarding the mayor’s knowledge of a public records violation is published.

Mr. Callison’s saber-rattling is a disturbing attempt at censoring the newspaper, but we will not be bullied or threatened into silence by a government official.

A free press is more important now than ever.

Callison should understand by now that the best public officials have thick skins. Most understand that they may not like everything that’s reported, nor what constituents say about them. Also, most understand that being a public servant is a privilege, and that the press and law hold public officials to a much higher standard than private citizens.

For a democracy to work, the people and the press must be able to question and confront public officials without fear of reprisal. A government “of the people, by the people and for the people” isn’t always easy or pain-free.

Mayor Callison strongly denied an assertion made against him by a citizen, as the story reports. That should have been the end of it.

This isn’t the first time that Callison has gone after the local newspaper, The South Whidbey Record.

He made regional headlines and TV news when he sent a $64 bill to The Record after a reporter interviewed the city’s attorney; Callison later claimed he wasn’t serious and was just trying to make a point.

The newspaper doesn’t pay for interviews.

Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, had this to say at the time: “I have never, ever heard of any such thing anywhere. … I can’t think of any circumstance when the news media would have to pay for any city staff’s time, whether they’re contracted staff or in-house staff.”

Callison may just be mayor of a small town overrun by bunnies, but he is required to abide by the same Constitution as senators and presidents.

And the newspaper will continue to do the constitutionally sanctioned job of covering local government and informing the public.

More in Opinion

Letter: Citizens’ job is to ensure elected representativs are doing theirs

Editor, Is the southern border situation a national emergency or a tempest… Continue reading

Editorial: Discussing animal shelter policies a healthy exercise

Articles in the Whidbey News-Times about dogs and cats are always well… Continue reading

Letter: Volunteers for treasurer’s office are invaluable at tax time

Editor, The Island County Treasurer’s Office wishes to extend its annual thanks… Continue reading

Cartoon for Jan. 12, 2019

Cartoon for Jan. 12, 2019… Continue reading

Letter: Distract, don’t talk about investigation, is a strategy

Editor, I believe President Trump nailed it when he said he prefers… Continue reading

Letter: Writer’s information is propaganda, not facts

Editor, In your Dec. 26, 2018 edition of the Whidbey News-Times, you… Continue reading

Letter: ‘Angel lady’ who turned in lost purse new best friend

Editor, In early December, I had a quick errand at Walmart, parked… Continue reading

Letter: Storm should have been front, center on page one

Editor, It is obvious where the Whidbey News-Times’ priorities are when the… Continue reading

Cartoon for Jan. 9, 2019

Cartoon for Jan. 9, 2019… Continue reading

Most Read