complaint was filed. These allegations are barred by the relevant statute of limitations. D.C. Code § 12-301(4).
The defendants also raise several challenges to the sufficiency of the plaintiffs' remaining defamatory allegations. They argue that the complaint fails to state a cause of action based on ABC's coverage of the plaintiffs' activities, does not allege the substance of any defamatory statements, and is not defamatory with respect to the Provisional Government's officials. The Court agrees that the complaint is deficient in all of these respects, but will permit the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint which succinctly states the substance of the defamation alleged in the April 20 broadcast. However, the complaint is dismissed as to the claims concerning the adequacy of ABC's media coverage and the claims of the individual plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs criticize ABC's media coverage on the grounds that it has not adequately publicized the Provisional Government's activities or its relationship with the United States government. This claim is not premised on the content of ABC's coverage of the plaintiffs, but rather on the alleged lack of coverage. To the extent that this claim is premised on the United States Constitution, the Court is unaware of any constitutional doctrine which imposes an affirmative duty on the media to report about the activities of any individual. To the extent the complaint is rooted in the fairness doctrine,
which has been given statutory recognition in the Federal Communications Act of 1935, 47 U.S.C. § 315(a), it must fail because the statute does not provide a private right of action for damages. Daly v. CBS, Inc., 309 F.2d 83, 86 (7th Cir. 1962).
Moreover, neither the complaint nor the transcript of the broadcast affords any basis for finding that the Provisional Government's officials have been defamed. Defamation is personal; a plaintiff who alleges defamation "must show that [the statement] was published 'of and concerning' him." Summerlin v. Washington Star, 7 Media L. Rep. 2460, 2461 (D.D.C. 1981). Allegations of defamation by an organization and its members are not interchangeable. Statements which refer to individual members of an organization do not implicate the organization. Church of Scientology of California v. Flynn, 578 F. Supp. 266, 269 (D. Mass. 1984). By the same reasoning, statements which refer to an organization do not implicate its members.
This conclusion is reinforced by the limitations the concept of group libel imposes on actions for defamation. A defamatory statement directed against a group or class does not generally give rise to a cause of action on behalf of its individual members. Fowler v. Curtis Publishing Co., 86 U.S. App. D.C. 349, 182 F.2d 377, 378 (D.C. Cir. 1950). In order to be actionable by an individual, the publication must contain "statements that are reasonably susceptible of application" to the individual. Gintert v. Howard Publications, Inc., 565 F. Supp. 829, 835 (N.D. Ind. 1983). Here, the statements in the April 20 broadcast contain no explicit references to the officers of the Provisional Government, and the surrounding circumstances do not implicate them in any fashion. Thus, the complaint must be dismissed as to plaintiffs' Obadele and Abubakari, suing on their own behalf.
The Court also agrees that the complaint, as filed, is inadequate because it is "devoid of specific defamatory comments." See Leo Winter Associates, Inc. v. HHS, 497 F. Supp. 429, 432 (D.D.C. 1980). Rather than dismissing the complaint, however, the Court will permit the Provisional Government to specifically set forth the alleged defamatory statements and relevant circumstances. This description shall include a precise statement of the point at which the Republic of New Afrika streamer appeared on the broadcast.
Thirteenth Amendment and Sections 1981 and 1985(3)
The Thirteenth Amendment is an "absolute declaration that slavery or involuntary servitude shall not exist in any part of the United States." Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 438, 88 S. Ct. 2186, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1189 (citing Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 20, 27 L. Ed. 2d 1189, 88 S. Ct. 2186 (1883)). Although the Supreme Court has never decided whether the Thirteenth Amendment provides a direct cause of action to eradicate the vestiges of slavery, the better view is that the Thirteenth Amendment, standing alone, does not give such rights. Alma Society, Inc. v. Mellon, 601 F.2d 1225, 1236-38 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 995, 62 L. Ed. 2d 426, 100 S. Ct. 531 (1979). Congress, of course, is empowered to pass laws to eradicate the badges and incidents of slavery. Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217, 227, 29 L. Ed. 2d 438, 91 S. Ct. 1940 (1971). It is to this question that we now turn.
Both of the statutory sections on which plaintiffs rely, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1985(3), were passed pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment. Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 170-71, 49 L. Ed. 2d 415, 96 S. Ct. 2586 (1976) (section 1981); Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 105, 29 L. Ed. 2d 338, 91 S. Ct. 1790 (1971) (section 1985(3)). Section 1981 provides in relevant part that:
All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.
The two major clauses -- the contracts clause and the equal benefits clause -- are intended to enforce two distinct sets of rights. Mahone v. Waddle, 564 F.2d 1018, 1029 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 438 U.S. 904, 57 L. Ed. 2d 1147, 98 S. Ct. 3122 (1978).
The specific assertions in plaintiffs' complaint show that their claims arise under the equal benefits clause. Complaint at para. 15. Because this clause does not reach purely private discrimination, the element of state action must be alleged and proved. Mahone, 564 F.2d at 1029. Here, the plaintiffs' vague allegations of state action rest on the fact that the federal government regulates the broadcasting industry. The fact that the government has granted NBC a broadcast license is not sufficient to constitute state action, see CBS v. DNC, 412 U.S. 94, 119-121, 36 L. Ed. 2d 772, 93 S. Ct. 2080 (1973), and the plaintiffs' claim under § 1981 must be dismissed.
The plaintiffs' claims under section 1985(3) are also inadequate in the absence of the requisite element of state action. Section 1985(3) protects persons injured by conspiracies formed
for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws . . . .