Trummel & strife
The LFB fringe meeting on Freedom Of The Press
Online at 2003's Annual Delegates' Meeting drew a
decent crowd - more than 20 was good when
last-minute scheduling put it up against a
discussion on the Iraq war. Speakers were Chris
Frost, chair of the union's Ethics Council,
Granville Williams, from the Campaign For Press
And Broadcasting Freedom, and LFB's own Paul
Trummel. Now 69, Trummel was jailed last year for
111 days in Seattle for contempt of court because
he refused to self-censor reports investigating
the conduct of a retirement community which he had
published on his own website. This is the text of
his opening address:
Wives of a senior superior court judge and a
bankruptcy lawyer, co-presidents of Council House,
Seattle, Washington, (a taxpayer
financially-assisted apartment block for senior
citizens) allegedly abused residents and
misappropriated federal government funds. Veteran
NUJ member and investigative reporter Paul Trummel
reported the abuse and fraud both to US Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and in
articles published on his web site.
He wrote how Council House managers had
incarcerated senior citizens without trial and
constructively imprisoned others in their
apartments for not conforming to neo-fascist
ideology and zero-tolerance policies. They used
fear to coerce residents into conforming with
The senior judge and husband formed an ex parte
(backstage) consort with the junior trial judge of
only four months tenure who sat in the same
courthouse. The bankruptcy lawyer, husband of the
other co-president, verified the reporter's
credentials with NUJ, without declaring his
interest as an attorney, then knowingly supported
his wife in malfeasance and denial of those credentials.
The trial judge called Trummel, who has published
for almost sixty years, a bogus journalist because
he worked freelance and did not receive a regular
salary from a publisher. He then denied him any
journalism rights let alone a fair trial.
The judge took draconian measures against Trummel
for exposing alleged fraud by his fellow judge's
wife. He first constructively evicted him from his
apartment by denying him a continuance for his
attorney to attend a hearing. This stopped Trummel
using his computer and denied him access to his
notes and records. Then the judge had him placed
in solitary confinement without a hearing and
denied him legal representation.
Trummel has lived in jail and in cheap motels for
more than two years. Both judges demonstrated the
futility and injustice of the way the Washington
judicial system functions. A British subject and
retired professor, Trummel has a web site in
Holland administered from London. The trial judge
claimed jurisdiction and jailed him for 111 days
(25 days in solitary confinement locked down 23
hours a day among murderers and rapists). Jail
authorities denied adequate medical care and
medication causing his health to deteriorate.
Trummel has now won a unanimous WA supreme court
decision (five judges) that has forced the
appellate court to hear the case. The judges
previously thwarted that appeal in a variety of
ways for more than two years.
Several professional organizations have now joined
in the appeal because abuse of judicial power
affects all journalists internationally. The case
has now become a fight for the right to publish
and a civil rights issue relating to unlawful
imprisonment, freedom of expression, and right of assembly.
NUJ London Freelance Branch has consistently
supported Trummel's efforts with time and money
and the International Federation Of Journalists
will shortly file suit in support of the appeal.
Both judges trampled upon journalists' first
amendment rights by arbitrarily trying to censor
articles on a web site. They predetermined guilt
in order to support their political point of view.
The trial judge wrote his findings prior to a
hearing, then fined and later jailed the reporter.
All without due process of law.
The judge used an anti-harassment law that
specifically excludes constitutionally protected
speech to prevent him from contacting his sources.
Later, he fined and incarcerated Trummel on
trumped-up claims that he had violated the order
and again denied him representation.
Looseness in definition exacerbates problems and
gives judges power to stipulate definitions. Both
the judge, and Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the
Looking Glass, have said: "Words mean precisely
what I want them to mean."
Online journalism does not mean republishing
printed material on the web. That is electronic
archiving in the same way that similar material
was microfilmed in the past. Online journalism
requires a whole new rhetorical approach to
communication that brings with it hazards for journalists.
Like any new communication medium, someone will
want to control it either politically or
economically. Joseph Goebbels recognized the
potential of new media for exploitation when he
used radio exclusively for propaganda during
1930s. This automatically impacted upon freedom of expression.
Some journalists bring disrepute upon themselves.
Political silence proponents coerce them not to
think. This non-thinking mentality prevents them
from reporting the truth about totalitarian
dictates and dogma. As a group they accept a
If journalists dogmatically agree on an issue then
the consensus probably does not have intellectual
validity - erroneously called balanced reporting.
Coordinated implications do not lead to correct
conclusions. They ignore individual analyses that
may create difference. Accepting the lowest common
denominator on any issue sets the intellectual
standard at the lowest level. Coerced unanimity
inhibits expression of different viewpoints.
Consequently, political silence stifles that
knowledge in favor of ideology and absolute power.
To prevent similar unethical behavior by judges,
writers need to carefully define online journalism
otherwise it leaves judges free to form their own
interpretation. Instead of using existing law to
support freedom of the press, elected judges
promulgate new legal precedents using laws that do
not apply which restricts dissemination to suit
The term "ethics" describes ideal individual and
organizational behavior while law defines the
minimum practical standards permitted by an
ethical society. Ethics do not equate with morals
but more with professional standards and law. One
expects higher ethical standards from judges than
the lowest common denominator that legal dialectic
provides. Unethical behavior by them classifies as
judicial misconduct despite the disparity between
ethical constraints and legal rules.
A recent NY ruling gave online journalists the
same privileges as print journalists. However,
judges still argue that they have jurisdiction
over the Internet worldwide. They frequently use
anti-harassment laws designed for domestic
disputes to censor or place a prior restraint upon
journalists to suit their own political agendas.
They use laws that do not apply then unlawfully
Fifty years ago, NUJ member George Orwell
responded "so is the jungle" to the assertion that
technology was neutral. An online communication
jungle now leaves writers everywhere vulnerable to
all sorts of abuse that includes imprisonment for
the expression of ideas and opinion -
constitutionally protected speech.