Pataki Under Fire for “Gagging” Rockefeller Reform Advocates on Univision, Says Front Page Story in Spanish Daily, El Diario

Press Release June 27, 2002
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Sharda Sekaran at 917-586-9800

As reform advocates and Latino community leaders continue to demand that Governor Pataki back meaningful reform of the Rockefeller drug laws before this year’s legislative session comes to a close, New York’s largest Spanish daily newspaper, El Diario, ran a front page story on Friday with the headline, “Unvision Pulls Ad After Pressure from the Governor – Pataki Gags [Ad].”

Telemundo, the main rival of Univision in New York’s Spanish language media market, agreed to run a modified version of the same ad, beginning Saturday evening and continuing through next Friday.

These developments follow a press conference yesterday at City Hall in Manhattan, at which State Assemblyman Peter Rivera and New York City Council Member Margarita Lopez urged the governor to back the State Assembly’s proposed reform bill, which they say would affect far more families than the plan favored by Mr. Pataki. The governor has so far refused.

The El Diario headline referred to an ad previously ran on Univision in New York, featuring family members of Rockefeller drug law prisoners and calling on the governor to negotiate a Rockefeller reform plan that would allow the thousands
incarcerated under these laws to seek sentencing reduction. The article recaps how the ads were pulled by Univision following a letter from the governor’s office alleging “blatantly untruthful” elements.

Though it disputed the alleged inaccuracies, The Center for Policy Reform, which sponsored the ad, hurriedly and at great expense changed those elements that could potentially have been misunderstood as minor errors. Upon receipt of the revised ad, however, Univision pointed to one statement -“thousands of New Yorkers have a family member behind bars for mandatory sentences”, and refused to run it until “thousands” was changed to “hundreds”, making it consistent with the Governor’s interpretation of the ad.

According to the State Department of Corrections, there are over 19,000 drug offenders in New York state prisons, making it impossible that only “hundreds” of New Yorkers have family members incarcerated under these laws. A recent report by Human Rights Watch estimated that 23,537 children currently have parents in New York state prisons for drug offenses.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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