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The essence of a free press is that it is free from adverse pressure from authority and vested interests which it can hold up to public scrutiny. It would be a travesty of this principal, and that of journalistic freedom if a newspaper were to bow to such pressure. It is even worse when such pressure comes from an organ of the State, and it is a further condemnation of an editorial Board if the Journalist is not allowed his side of the story.

Yet this precisely what has happened at The Los Angeles Times.

Ted Rall has in his time been a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and a long serving political cartoonist. He was the Robert F Kennedy Journalism Award winner in both 1995 and 2000. He was also President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists 2008 to 2009. He’s an established professional known throughout the world. Indeed it was the Cartoonist Club of Great Britain that alerted me to this sorry tale.

Ted also has a reputation for being a grade A pain the arse for LAPD.

So what happened? Well, Ted Rall had blogged in the paper of an incident some ten years before when he had been ticketed and handcuffed during an LAPD crackdown on Jaywalking. He wrote “Just over ten years ago I was ticketed – and handcuffed – for an alleged pedestrian violation while crossing Melrose Avenue. Ironically, this was one of the rare times that I was innocent of even jaywalking, something I do every day”.

Los Angeles Police Department produced records that appeared to go against Ted Rall’s version of events and sent an audiotape as “evidence” to the paper.

What happens next almost defies belief. It would appear that Los Angeles Times editor Nicholas Goldberg took the unilateral decision to dismiss Rall on the spot, citing “inconsistences” in the blog post, and that this meant no further “future work by Rall would appear in The Times”.

However the audiotape brought forward as evidence is said to be atrocious in quality, and to not even back up LAPD’s account.  Rall has a loyal following in various parts of the audio industry and one such put the tape through an enhancement process and cleaned it up. An angry woman’s voice appears shouting “Take off the handcuffs”. The noise of the crowd, the handcuffs, the whole Rall version of events now clear for all.

And did the LA Times retract their decision? Not a bit of it.  Did the Police show contricion?  Not a bit of it.   Indeed the Los Angeles Police Protection League went as far as to applaud the LA Times for firing Ted. They took the post down dead quick like, but not before it was saved and you can read it here.

Actions like this we might expect in Russia, or Korea, or Saudi Arabia but California?

Democracy needs all of us to be constantly vigilant. Support Ted Rall!

Copyright David Macadam 2015.

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