The Hugh M Hefner Foundation First Amendment Awards

When one thinks of the battle for freedom of expression we may not necessarily think of Hugh Hefner and his Playboy empire but that would be a mistake. Hugh Hefner has been promoting and fighting for First Amendment rights both within the pages of Playboy magazine and through the work of the HMH Foundation for years and this year marks the 36th year of the Hugh M Hefner Foundation’s First Amendment Awards.

Recently Progressive Lawyer spoke with Christie Hefner, former CEO Playboy Enterprises Inc. about the awards and the importance of recognizing First Amendment advocacy.

Christie Hefner
Christie Hefner

Progressive Lawyer: Playboy has always been a strong supporter of freedom of expression which may come as a surprise to some casual observers. Why does the foundation and magazine continue to engage in the freedom of expression debate?

Christie Hefner: From the very beginning of the magazine, Hef felt strongly that personal freedom and individual rights were the foundation of the magazine, and his editorial philosophy; and that no right was more fundamental that the 1st Amendment. As is clear every day, the fight to protect and enhance those rights is never ending.

PL: With Charlie Hebdo having kick started the debate over freedom of speech and what is considered “acceptable”, how do you define what is acceptable and what is not in a free speech debate? Is this even an issue?

CH: From the perspective of the magazine and the awards, it is a mistake to carve out types of ‘speech’ that may be hurtful or offensive and not offer them protection. As has been noted, it is precisely that kind of speech, i.e. the speech that is not supported by the majority, that is the most in need of constitutional protections. Our society is premised on the idea and ideal that the counter to ‘bad’ speech is not censorship, but more ‘speech.’

PL: How does the HMH foundation decide on its finalists and judges?

CH: The chairman of the Awards and the Executive Director of the Foundation have historically invited the judges. Those judges then select the winners, and present the awards. This year’s judges are:

Mike Hiestand, past winner, Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for organizing the Tinker Tour, the national free speech and civic education bus tour. Hiestand was the staff attorney for the nonprofit Student Press Law Center (SPLC), located just outside Washington, D.C., from 1991-2003, and worked full-time as the Center’s sole consulting attorney until 2012. He continues to assist student media and work with the SPLC on special projects affecting the student press community. Over the years, Hiestand has provided legal assistance to nearly 15,000 high school and college student journalists and their advisers.

Pamela Samuelson, Faculty Director, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law. She is recognized as a pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyber law and information policy. Since 1996, she has held a joint appointment at Berkeley Law School and UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Samuelson is a director of the internationally renowned Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. She serves on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as on the advisory boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, for the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.

Ronald Brownstein, two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of presidential campaigns, and Atlantic Media’s Editorial Director for Strategic Partnerships, in charge of long-term editorial strategy. He also writes a weekly column and regularly contributes other pieces for the National Journal, contributes to Quartz, and The Atlantic, and coordinates political coverage and activities across publications produced by Atlantic Media. In addition, he currently serves as a senior political analyst for CNN and also served as an electoral analyst for ABC News during the 2012 election.

Prior to joining Atlantic Media, Brownstein was the National Affairs Columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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Why I Do What I Do: International Free Speech and Human Rights Lawyer Jennifer Robinson

This week we kick off our brand new feature “Why I Do What I do” where we talk to an amazing array of lawyers who explain why they have taken the path less travelled in their legal careers. We hope you find reading these features to be as inspiring to you as they are to us. This week we feature Jennifer Robinson. (Updated with a video highlighting the first ever Bertha Justice Initiative Global Convening in Cape Town, South Africa, in March 2014)

Jennifer Robinson
Jennifer Robinson

Global justice requires global leadership. This month, Progressive Lawyer is proud to feature the work of Jennifer Robinson, Director of Legal Advocacy for the Bertha Justice “Be Just” Initiative for the Bertha Foundation.

An Australian native and a Rhodes Scholar, Jen is an internationally known human rights and free speech lawyer whose clients have included the New York Times, CNN, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness. Since 2010, Jen has been a member of the legal team advocating for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

Additionally, Jen is a contributing author to such seminal media law texts Law on Contempt (2010), Information Rights: Law and Practice (2014) and, later this year, Robertson and Nichol on Media Law. She also writes for publications such as Al Jazeera English, Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue.

Jen joined the Bertha Foundation in 2011 and established the Be Just Initiative to support the next generation of human rights lawyers around the world. The Be Just Initiative now supports more than 100 lawyers in 15 different countries. She also provides strategic advice to activists and social justice filmmakers supported by the Foundation.

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The Fight for Free Speech – A Spotlight on the First Amendment Lawyers Association

FALA LogoThe Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last month touched off a firestorm of debate with respect to the place of free speech in society. The interesting thing is that this debate has been ongoing for years and for Americans, it is an especially important issue because freedom of speech is enshrined in their Constitution under the First Amendment which reads:

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.

First Amendment legal battles have been legendary (Wikipedia has a good summary of some of the most prominent case law) and the fight to maintain this important constitutional right is one engaged in willingly and forcefully by the First Amendment Lawyers Association.

To find out more about this association, I recently spoke to Robert Corn-Revere, immediate past president, National Chairman and well known First Amendment lawyer who gave me some background on whom they are and why they do what they do.

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Free Speech Coalition: Using the Law in Defense of Fundamental Freedom of Speech Rights


FSC sm LogoThe devil is in the details. This is the phrase I always think of when people start to “debate” the issue of free speech and freedom of expression. Everybody tends to agree that free speech is a fundamental cornerstone of a free and democratic society (heck it is codified in the American Constitution under the First Amendment as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Article 19) but when the speech that is causing the debate is controversial or perhaps one espoused by a minority of the population, all of a sudden some people are not necessarily as excited about giving free speech its due.

The very essence of free speech is that it exists to protect the controversial, the voice of the minority and the sometimes unpalatable and yet the instant the speech in question might be outside the mainstream, otherwise staunch free speech proponents often start to back down. It is in this atmosphere that the Free Speech Coalition was born. The voice of the adult entertainment industry, the founders of the Free Speech Coalition (originally the Free Speech Legal Defense Fund) realized that they would have to take matters into their own hands to protect their own interests and concomitantly ensure that the right of freedom of speech and expression remains just what it should be, a right benefitting all. Recently I talked with Diane Duke, Chief Executive Officer of the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) to find out more about their legal battles and how they use the law to protect the rights of their members and by definition anybody who values their First Amendment rights.

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