Friday, April 27, 2012

ESCORT Ads - Violating Women and The Constitution


CT1 Media, a Connecticut based subsidiary of the mammoth Tribune media conglomerate, is concerned about their First Amendment rights. However, they are already complicit in violating the 13th Amendment rights of minors in Connecticut.

In 2000, referring to its poor judgment in advertising rewards for runaway slaves over 150 earlier, the Hartford Courant issued a public apology “for its role in slavery.” Then in 2002, the paper published a self-expose entitled, “Complicity: Slavery And The Courant-Promoting And Protecting Human Bondage.” The extensive and well researched series of articles reported that, “On April 29, 1765, the Connecticut Courant published its first slave-related ad: ‘Joseph Enos of Union seeks the return of Bristol, his 30-year-old runaway slave.’ The next week, an anonymous advertiser offered for sale a ‘likely, healthy good natured NEGRO BOY, about 15.’”

Today, a prominent “Vision” and “Values” plaque hangs in the spacious lobby of theHartford Courant offices on Broad Street. The proud display is a public declaration of their corporate philosophy and mission, so all the world will know the Tribune owned newspaper strives to “Apply high standards of ethical behavior in all that we do.”

Recently, the Connecticut General Assembly introduced H.B. 5504 “An Act Concerning Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.” The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of the Bill and now it waits approval from the House, Senate and Governor. The law will make advertisers “guilty of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor” if they run “escort” ads involving anyone under the age of 18. The law is aimed directly at “escort” advertisements like those carried regularly in the Advocate Newspapers, Kensington based Extreme New England Magazine, and on websites like Backpage.com. These “escort” agencies have proven to be nothing but a front for those who are often guilty of human trafficking crimes, also known as modern day slavery.

Within minutes of introducing the bill, its opponents used questions of constitutionality to diminish its importance and influence. The Hartford Advocate’s parent company, CT1 Media, which also owns the Hartford Courant and WTIC Fox 61 TelevisionChris VanDeHoef, Executive Director of the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association, and Representative Arthur O’Neill all questioned whether or not the bill would pass “constitutional muster” under the First Amendment.
Their position is summarized in a statement from CT1 Media, citing that the bill was “problematic due to concerns of constitutionality, enforcement and the inability of newspaper publishers to comply.”
This is a valid point and certainly not just an attempt to hide behind the First Amendment. But, the statement exhibits an extraordinarily narrow – or at the very least naïve – perspective on the real issue: slavery. And the Hartford Advocate “escort” advertisements from which CT1 Media profits, ads that the US Department of Justice proved to be used for “sex trafficking of a minor” in the case of United States vs. Dennis Paris, are most certainly complicit in violation of the 13th Amendment.
The Amendment is a simple one, stating. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The 13th Amendmentoutlawed slavery in all its forms. How does this relate to the Hartford Advocate and their “Escort” ads? In the second section of the Amendment it further states that, “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” They did so with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which updated the federal anti-slavery statutes to include “sex trafficking of a minor.”

Dennis Paris, a pimp who operated out of motels south of Hartford on the Silas Deane Highway and the Berlin Turnpike, was convicted of “sex trafficking of a minor,” among other crimes, and is now serving a 30 year sentence in federal prison. Two of his victims, one 16 another 14, were advertised in the Hartford Advocate’s “Escort” ads section. Nearly five years after the trial in which the Advocate was cited over 60 times as Paris’s exclusive channel for selling his girls, the paper continues to run these advertisements every week.

So, while no one questions the First Amendment rights of Connecticut’s media, we ask them to consider the Constitutional rights of the people they serve, rights they are helping to violate.
It is an important moment in the life of CT1 Media, a proud Connecticut company. Will their “high standards of ethical behavior” once again move them to end advertising that is currently “promoting and protecting human bondage?” Will they again apologize for their role?

Or will they stand stubbornly with those long-dead slave masters and be forced to stop their unethical practices of modern-slavery advertisements by law?

Will they actually risk enormous public backlash solely for the right to continue their complicity in sex trafficking? Indeed, the new legislation has already exposed the truth behind these “escort” agencies, the ads they run, and those who profit from the ads – profits that are often taken from the sexual victimization of our young people.

The Connecticut Legislature ratified The 13th Amendment on May 4th 1865, less than three weeks after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. 147 years later, they have the opportunity to remind all those who are involved in today’s slavery that any form of human bondage will never be tolerated.

Of course, there is another solution, one which the Hartford Courant itself used in the past.Stop running ads promoting slavery and apologize.

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