The Opelika-Auburn News, joined by several other media outlets from around the state, filed a motion Monday in Lee County District Court asking for the gag order to be lifted in the case of Ibraheem Yazeed, the primary suspect arrested and facing charges in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard.
The Opelika-Auburn News, WSFA, The Montgomery Advertiser, the Alabama Press Association, the Alabama Broadcasters Association and several other media entities joined forces in an attempt to lift the gag order, stating that the order is too broad in nature and is not narrowly tailored.
Yazeed is charged with first-degree kidnapping in connection to the disappearance of Blanchard.
Lee County Judge Russell Bush issued the gag order Nov. 8, and the order was filed Nov. 11, according to court records.
Too broadThe gag order prohibits the parties involved in the investigation and any potential witnesses from speaking with the media or discussing their involvement with the case to the media, according to the order.
The motion filed by the media feels the order filed by Bush is “impermissibly overbroad and specifically bans all communication,” with members of the media.
The motion specifically points out that the terms “potential witnesses,” “the media,” and “potential,” which are all used in the gag order, are broad terms.
The motion goes on to state the gag order is prior restraint due to the order prohibiting speech to the media.
Prior restraint is a censorship imposed that prohibits particular instances of expression.
‘Interests of justice’Bush issued the gag for “the interests of justice,” the gag order reads.
However, the motion filed by area media states that “there has been no evidence presented that it is substantially probable the publicity expected will prejudice the defendant’s right to a fair trial nor that the order sought by the prosecution would be narrowly tailored to protect the defendant’s fair-trial interests.”
Gag orders must be narrowly tailored, according to United States law.
Due to the broad nature of the gag and it not being narrowly tailored, the reason for “the interests of justice” does meet expectations to keep the gag order.
“The conclusory statement that it an extremely broad gag order is required by the ‘interests of justice’ does not begin to meet the high burden required to warrant such drastic actions by this Court nor to narrowly tailor the order,” the motion reads.
The motion filed by the media also states that media members were not given notice or an opportunity to be heard when the gag order was put into place.
“In order to provide the requisite notice, pretrial motions for closure ‘must be docketed reasonably in advance of their disposition so as to give the public and press an opportunity to intervene and present their objections to the court,’” the motion reads.
Whereabouts unknownThe motion filed by the medial also states that due to Blanchard’s whereabouts being still unknown, the gag order hinders the media’s help in attempting to locate her.
“The Gag Order would prohibit communications with the media intended to try to seek their assistance in learning the whereabouts of the victim or in encouraging potential witnesses to her whereabouts to come forward,” the motion reads.
Blanchard was last seen at an Auburn area convenience store on Oct. 23 and was reported missing on Oct. 24.
The Opelika-Auburn News has not received comments from the Auburn Police Division or the Lee County District Attorney’s Office about the investigation into Blanchard’s whereabouts since Nov. 8.