Thursday, July 24, 2008

Did CGU's Lawyer Harass an Independent Filmmaker?

I have long maintained that the Claremont Colleges need a realistic, total college policy for media and press relations. It simply makes no sense that Jonathan Rosenberg'83 is allowed to put his entire speech at the Ath on YouTube, while an independent journalist is harassed (or is threatened?) for doing exactly the same thing at a public event. Judge for yourself whether the video is so objectionable by watching it above and decide whether he actually needed to blur out the faces.

Apparently, according to Musurlian, who spoke with me via phone, Paulo Silvio Berra, CGU's high-priced attorney had claimed that openly filming a presentation was harassment for the students present, a finding, by the way, that YouTube rejected as they reinstated the video and that wouldn't pass muster in any court. As an aside, I wonder what Alex Juhasz, the Pitzer professor behind the YouTube class, would think about that! Did she harass her own students by filming them? Of course not.

The very fact that CGU's first reaction to seeing a video on YouTube was to call in an attorney who gets a high fee should really bother us. What does it say about a college that their first act was to call the lawyers?

For the record, I make no secret of wanting to make all events in which a speaker comes to campus readily accessible on YouTube for the whole of posterity and the world to see. If students don't like it, they are encouraged not to sit in front of the camera. If they do like it, well, they should get help. Damn hams. (Kidding, but only slightly.)

You can read the entire article below and follow the entire controversy on Mr. Musurlian's site, There, you can read the publicity that CGU has put out for the Turkish diplomat, Hakan Tekin, the letter that Mursurlian sent to the CGU President Kitgaard after CGU's attorney, and then the attorney's response. Here's Mursurlian's response to the attorney and some coverage of the event. Good for Musurlian to tell these bureaucrats that they won't curtail his liberty.

Dear Mr. Paul Silvio Berra, Esq.,

Unlike you, I've never represented Cameron Diaz or Van Halen. I'm just one guy with an editing system in the living room of my Glendale condo. I am not a high-priced, top-20-law-school-educated entertainment attorney. BUT I DO KNOW LIBEL WHEN I SEE IT.

You just wrote that I was "spreading lies to media outlets," because you did not intimidate me. I'll be the judge of that. And, I am waiting for your timely retraction.

You called me out-of-the-blue today, talking about cease-and-desist orders...and who knows what other legal mumbo jumbo...and expect me not to be intimidated? Just because we were both personable, does not mean you were not sending a stern message through that unassuming Ann Arbor accent.

And, by the looks of your latest e-mail message, you might as well be a guy named Silvio Corleone brandishing a Louisville Slugger.

Talk about intimidation; You just quoted yourself as saying,"...remove your video from YouTube because you had no authority to publish it." That was scary coming from a lawyer. Notwithstanding my intimidated psyche, I must let you know that my "authority" is not you. It is the First Amendment, which protects me in covering news at an open meeting, at which no Claremont University official even approached me and my big camera and tripod.

That being noted, and as much as it stresses me out, I will not waste my time "blurring faces." I don't work for you. As a U.S. Army veteran, who served overseas for seven months in the 1990s, as well as the son of an American-born U.S. Army veteran, who served in-country during the Korean War, I will take it as my duty as an American not to give-in to bullies, who want to cleverly manipulate the legal system in order to badger the weak.

My paternal grandfather's five young sisters, buried in the Syrian Desert during the Armenian Genocide, already represent Musurlians victimized by bullies.

You and your clients, Claremont Graduate University, ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I would expect this from the Republic of Turkey, but not from an American institution of higher learning. Perhaps Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is alive and well at Claremont Graduate University and at your 3rd Street Promenade law office in Santa Monica.

Peter Musurlian
Globalist Films
YouTube Restores Video Exposing Denial at Claremont University
CLAREMONT, CA--All independent journalist Peter Musurlian wanted to do on June 10 was videotape Turkish Consul General Hakan Tekin's lecture at Claremont Graduate University and produce a news story for Horizon Armenian TV, as well as post the story on YouTube. Musurlian did both.

Then Claremont Graduate University hired a slick Santa Monica entertainment attorney, Paul Silvio Berra, to make a "friendly" call to Musurlian 13 days later.

Musurlian was given "a couple of hours" before the attorney would contact YouTube to claim the video was posted illegally or, as Berra put it, "you had no authority to publish it."

"I was intimidated," said Musurlian. "I didn't take it lightly that a high-priced lawyer, who has represented celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Lou Rawls, was hired by officials at a university--with unlimited spending power--to make my life miserable. I had no idea to what lengths Claremont Graduate University would go to jerk-around a little guy exercising his First Amendment Rights."

"Claremont officials had enough appreciation for Free Speech to allow an Armenian-Genocide denier to speak, as an honored guest, at their university. But, when it came to news coverage of the event, which is protected by the Untied States Constitution, they seemingly concocted a reason to squash free speech. I can only assume the phone call from a lawyer was a not-too-subtle effort to shut me up," Musurlian added.

The video was deleted by YouTube on June 25. Musurlian appealed. And, on July 10, realizing Claremont Graduate University's claim was baseless, YouTube restored the video to Musurlian's YouTube account: 301AD.

In the interim, Musurlian uploaded to YouTube, a censored version of the Turkish story, abiding by the inexplicable demands of Claremont's attorney, who wanted Musurlian to "blur the faces of students." It would be hard to imagine CNN or Fox News being ordered by Claremont officials--hiding behind an attorney--to censor a news story.

The end result of Claremont's ill-advised and boneheaded attempt at censorship and intimidation is that both stories are now available on YouTube. In addition, Musurlian has created a Website,, which, in its first 20 days, registered more than 5,000 hits.


Anonymous said...

"My paternal grandfather's five young sisters, buried in the Syrian Desert during the Armenian Genocide, already represent Musurlians victimized by bullies."

That's one of the most powerful statements I've read in a long time! Musurlian is a hero! He stood up to bullies and prevailed.

Mr. Naron said...

It warms my heart that I'm still paying the Clown Graduate University.