For at least 60 years the Supreme Court has said that only in the most extraordinary circumstances (such as troop movements) could a court prevent journalists from reporting the news. Now the Supreme Court has sent a strong message that this can be done for a brief period, perhaps almost as a matter of routine, and it has implied that it can be done for a long period, perhaps permanently, in cases that while not routine are far short of extraordinary.
The court did this Sunday by voting 7-2 to require Cable News Network to obey an order from a trial judge in Miami forbidding it to broadcast tapes made of Gen. Manuel Noriega's phone calls from prison, including some to members of his legal defense team, until the judge had listened to them to determine if publicizing them would interfere with the general's right to a fair trial.
We believe General Noriega and every other individual accused of a crime deserves a fair trial, but we also believe every American is served by having the courts respect the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press. No press is free if government officials, including judges, can oversee the editorial decision-making process.