U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

New Hampshire newspaper publisher arrested, charged with violating political ad laws

Incident Details

August 24, 2022

The publisher of the New Hampshire-based weekly newspaper, the Londonderry Times, was arrested on Aug. 24, 2022, and charged with publishing political advertisements without correctly identifying them as ads.

According to a press release by Attorney General John M. Formella, publisher Debra Paul was charged with six misdemeanor counts of violating state laws on political advertisements. Paul had previously been investigated and warned by the state’s Election Law Unit for failing to comply with state election law in 2019 and 2021. According to the statement, Paul was issued a final warning letter about properly labeling the ads in September 2021.

In a statement emailed to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Paul condemned the state’s actions against the newspaper.

“This is clearly a case of a small business needing to defend itself against overreaching government. To threaten a small business owner with jail time over something this insignificant is very heavy handed,” Paul wrote.

Paul’s lawyer, Tony Naro, told the Tracker in an emailed statement that he could not make public statements about pending matters but denied any wrongdoing by Paul. Naro also said Paul arrived at the police station after making arrangements to turn herself in for processing before being released.

“The Londonderry Times does their absolute best to put out a quality publication with limited staff and a limited budget. Ms. Paul acted with no criminal intent, denies the allegations, and is presumed innocent. It is our intention to handle this matter exclusively in the court system where it belongs and not in the press. While this matter plays out in court, we ask for the public, and the media, to keep an open mind and not prejudge this case.”

If convicted, Paul faces a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000 per charge. An arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 19, 2022.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]