Wisconsin board backs away from free speech restrictions

A county board in southern Wisconsin has backed away from a plan to prosecute journalists over their reporting on a water quality study and discipline elected officials for how they handle information about the research.

The Lafayette County Board on Tuesday night put off a decision on how to release information about private wells contaminated with fecal matter.

The board shelved a resolution that said journalists would be prosecuted if they didn’t quote a county news release verbatim when reporting on water quality. It also had threatened to punish officials who talked publicly without getting government permission.

The proposals drew criticism for violating First Amendment protections for freedom of speech.

The Journal Sentinel says county board Chairman Jack Sauer threatened to throw out critical members of the public at the meeting and accused attendees of being Democrats.

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