Why is the concept of a “free press” so hard for people to understand? The Community Alliance newsstand was located right next to these four newspaper racks. Photo by Peter Maiden

Madera and the Right to a Free Press

Why is the concept of a “free press” so hard for people to understand? The Community Alliance newsstand was located right next to these four newspaper racks. Photo by Peter Maiden

By Mike Rhodes

The newsstand of the Community Alliance newspaper was removed from in front of the Madera Post Office by order of the Madera Postmaster Henry De La Torre. Of the five newsstands in front of the Post Office, only the Community Alliance newsstand was removed.

The removal of this newsstand was discovered by Peter Maiden, the Community Alliance distribution manager on Aug. 6. Maiden had gone to the Post Office to put copies of the August 2021 issue in the newsstand, found it missing and discovered it had been taken inside the building.

Maiden asked De La Torre to place the Community Alliance newsstand back where it was, with the other newsstands. The postmaster refused and said that doing so “violated the Hatch Act.” De La Torre went on to say that the Community Alliance was “like the Fresno Bee. It’s a liberal paper! It’s political!” If that was the postmaster’s true motivation, why were the other newsstands still in front of the Post Office?

According to Wikipedia: “The Hatch Act prohibits all federal employees from using their official authority or influence or agency resources for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election…wearing items that show support for or opposition to that candidate will again be prohibited by the Hatch Act.”

Maiden told De La Torre that the Hatch Act does not apply to newspapers in front of the Post Office and that we have a right to distribute our newspapers. That right is protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. In the first quarter-century under the Constitution, the Post Office gave preferential rates to support newspapers. This provided an opportunity for newspapers to thrive and readers to benefit from the free flow of information. This was supported by the political parties of that time.

Here is what the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Community Alliance wants to have the newsstand back in front of the Madera Post Office and newspapers available to our readers in Madera.

Kevin Little, an attorney assisting the Community Alliance, has sent a letter to Alyson Berg at the U.S. Department of Justice. She has forwarded that to the legal counsel at the Post Office, and we are hopeful the postmaster will come to his senses before this results in litigation.

*****

Mike Rhodes is a writer and the business manager for the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

  • Mike Rhodes is a writer for the Community Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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