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NEW LAWSUIT THREAT ISSUED AGAINST PACIFICA PROTEST WEB SITE AS MORE THAN 800,000 LETTERS DEMAND RESIGNATION OF BOARD MEMBER

Internet Free Speech Under Attack from "Free Speech Radio"

A web site through which listeners have sent more than 800,000 protest emails and faxes has been threatened with legal action by the employer of Ken Ford, vice chair of the Pacifica Foundation.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), employer of Pacifica vice chair Ken Ford, made the threat in an email to Steve Freedkin, operator of the Progressive Portal web site (http://www.progressiveportal.org/).

"This is one more case of the people who took over our free-speech radio network trying to stifle the speech of others," said Freedkin. Previously, Pacifica threatened several other protest sites with lawsuits, but it later relented. One small site was temporarily forced offline by the action.

Gerald M. Howard, the NAHB's Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, sent Freedkin a letter stating that NAHB is "exploring options for legal action." He added, "We strongly urge you to take down your web-page."

NAHB pressure also resulted in Progressive Portal's Web hosting service directing him to stop the letters. An alternative host was found, and the letter-writing continues uninterrupted.

Freedkin is joined in this effort by the Public Citizen Litigation Group of Washington, DC. "Public Citizen is concerned that the attempts by Pacifica and NAHB to silence their critics could have a chilling effect on Internet activism," said Paul Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen. Levy defended the Web sites previously threatened by Pacifica with legal action.

Public Citizen is the advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader.

"We can see no legal basis for NAHB's threats against Progressive Portal," Levy said, adding that NAHB's attorney has yet to explain the grounds for his client's complaint.

Activists continue to use Progressive Portal to write to hundreds of NAHB members throughout the country. They argue that Ford's behavior on the Pacifica board brings disrepute to the home builders, and call for Ford's resignation.

The letter campaign from www.ProgressivePortal.org has been part of a wide-ranging activist campaign that has forced the resignation of four members of the progressive radio network's board of directors, including board chair David Acosta. These members, along with Ford and six others, have been targeted by activists because "they have turned Pacifica into an anti-democratic institution, stifled the progressive programming that is the lifeblood of the network, and banned or fired dozens of the most skilled and honored personnel throughout the network," Freedkin said.

He said the current board majority is a "clique" that has made the board self-selecting rather than selected by the local communities of the network's five stations. Ford, he asserted, is one of several members serving illegally, having long since passed the end of his board term according to the organization's by-laws.

"These people have no progressive credentials, no radio credentials, no reason for being there," Freedkin said. "Ford works for a regressive lobbying group that opposes environmental protection and the rights of the disabled -- the antithesis of Pacifica values. It appears this is nothing more than a power grab by a corporate cabal intent on destroying Pacifica." He described Pacifica as "one of the few remaining media outlets with a progressive point of view."

Freedkin said he has no intention of curtailing Progressive Portal. "The fact that they must resort to these sorts of threats shows that we're having an impact. That's our purpose, and we intend to continue putting the pressure on, not just to restore Pacifica, but on a host of progressive social issues."

Progressive Portal is an independent project launched by Freedkin with a number of unpaid volunteers, he said.