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Following Complaints from Local Stations, City of Sanford Rescinds Controversial Media Warning

The City of Sanford has rescinded its controversial warning that members of the media covering the Trayvon Martin case could be arrested, following pressure from local news outlets who argued that the threat was unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, the City of Sanford, which has enlisted the help of a private PR firm in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, issued a press release stating that law enforcement officials would “not hesitate” to arrest members of the media who approach city employees outside of working hours.

After receiving complaints from Orlando stations, including WESH and WFTV, the city issued a follow-up release on Thursday evening, rescinding its threat.

WKMG reports that the PR firm representing the city stood by the warning on Wednesday, and the firm’s communications director said she didn’t see it as a First Amendment issue.

Here’s the initial warning

Sanford, Fla – March 28, 2012 — The City of Sanford kindly requests that members of the media refrain from approaching, phoning or emailing city employees when they are in their roles as private citizens. It has come to light that there have been a few incidents where city staff were followed and approached at their home or in settings outside of working hours.

Law enforcement officials will not hesitate to make an arrest for stalking.

And the follow-up

Sanford, Fl – March 29, 2012 ‐‐

– On March 28, 2012 the City of Sanford issued Media Advisory Number 23 (Press Release 23).  Upon reevaluation, it is clear that portions of that Advisory were improvidently issued. The first two paragraphs of that Advisory are hereby rescinded.

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