Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who cares? It's only a threat to freedom of the press!

Salon's Glenn Greenwald urges the American media (and, yes, the public shouldn't be forgotten in this as well) to keep in mind that not speaking out against the Obama administration's plans to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with espionage is tantamount to neglecting the importance of freedom of the press.

Meanwhile, and along the same lines, the Columbia University journalism school faculty has sent a letter to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder urging them not to pursue any criminal charges against WikiLeaks.

I believe the most important part of the letter is this section:
Any prosecution of Wikileaks’ staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity.
Both Mr. Greenwald and the journalism school faculty are right. And there is an irony in all of this -- the U.S. will host World Press Freedom Day next May. I'm curious how the Obama administration -- if challenged on this issue by any journalist (and if he has been and I missed it, I apologize) -- will explain how it can be so aggressively trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks, which has exposed the truth and legally, while publicly supporting a free press.

Of course, some non-profit groups, such as FAIR, have been consistent in support of WikiLeaks (and here's an opportunity for you to be as well). Other and less-well-known organizations, such as the Sunlight Foundation, also are endorsing what WikiLeaks has done.

In the aforementioned Sunlight Foundation editorial, the authors note that the historical notion of the press as a watchdog over the government remains as important as ever:
It must be vigorously protected against censors -- those who would prefer the public know less, not more, about what they are doing. More information, plus the Internet’s power to spread it beyond centralized control, may be our best defense against bad or illegal behavior.
And you might classify as "bad" behavior (or at least dubious) the fact that no Democrat has yet to speak out in favor of WikiLeaks and the importance of the First Amendment.

Are you?

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