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Sun must appeal decision

February 15, 2005

U.S. District Court Judge William Quarles on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Robert Ehrlich's ban on state employees having any contact with two writers of The (Baltimore) Sun. His reasoning makes no sense and we hope The Sun will appeal.

Judge Quarles said he dismissed the suit because the paper was seeking more access to government officials than accorded to a private citizen.

Really? We don't remember Ehrlich ordering state officials not to speak with private citizens. The governor did order Maryland workers not to speak to The Sun's State House bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker.

The judge also said that the paper could not demonstrate irreparable harm as a result of Ehrlich's order.

He is correct. The Sun will no doubt continue to publish and to find a way to cover the Ehrlich administration, whether or not Nitkin or Olesker are involved.

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No, it's not The Sun that will be harmed, but the public. If elected officials can pick and choose which reporters government employees will speak to, the public will quickly learn that reporters who ask the difficult questions will be barred, while those who ask "softball" questions will be welcomed.

Is that what the public wants? We doubt it, but if we have come to a time when citizens are willing to accept everything their leaders tell them at face value, our democracy is in deep trouble.

For that reason, we urge The Sun to press on. If this decision stands, more than one elected official will use it to turn the public's watchdog into a toothless lapdog.

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