Imprisoning Journalists Is Wrong
9/22/2006 12:36 AM
Byline: Mike Cunningham
What is this Stalinist Russia???
There is a segment of the population... Let's just say they are on the right side of every aisle, that believe the media are criminals. At every level. They truly believe that. And in this case, they have no sympathy for sure. It was the same for journalists like Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller who refused to name sources in the Valerie Plame leak case. Cooper later testified after his source said it was okay to reveal his identity. Miller was jailed for 85 days and later testified as well. America Lost.
In that world, you could argue, that one way to attack the media's credibility is by putting them in jail. And how is easy is it, by providing journalists with illegal information and then jail them when they don't reveal their source. Seems fishy to me, doesn't it?
In the BALCO case, reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were sentenced to 18 months in prison for not revealing the sources for articles they wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and the book Game of Shadows which reveals the Government's case against Barry Bonds.
Unfortunately there is a segement of the population who believe these reporters are "profiteers". They believe they are the REAL criminals for leaking the grand jury testimony (NOT the sources themselves!). Unfortunately, these folks are wrong. So wrong.
Some will argue even further, that if this was a murder trial, people wouldn't be up in arms. I'm sorry, the same rules applies. A journalist has an ethical obligation to protect it's sources. It protects their ability to report the truth without fear of retribution of those same sources. There NEEDS to be a federal shield law. In this case, prosecuting these reporters would be the same as prosecuting the man who filmed the Rodney King beating. Wouldn't it stand to reason that the person filming the action, should PREVENT the criminal act? And by not acting, he is just as guilty? Well, that's just plain silly.
Toiling in Congress is a bill that would protect journalists on a FEDERAL level from such nonsense. On the local level there are shields for the press across the country. Should journalists hold privilege to keep confidential sources secret, that law enforcement officals have? Absolutely? They are the Fourth Estate. The Voice of the people.
Unfortunately, because of the Bush Administration and the Far Right, their attack of the media (WHILE USING THE MEDIA) has ruined the credibility of the same. This crediblity flies in the face of the "Voice of the People." And if you think the media is not your voice, you have no problem with journalists like Fainaru-Wada and Williams going to jail.
We have a such a small, small vision of the world anymore. Despite all the information we have to the contrary. Our very freedom today, is bourne out the early American newspapers that printed letters and essays of our Founding Fathers, who railed against the king and spread the ideas that were written in the Declaration of Independence. Before Thomas Jefferson wrote down those famous words, newspapers carried letters of Thomas Paine (America's first Blogger).
And sometimes it's like we never learn. Jailing journalists is no different than the awful Sedition act of 1918 and the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. Today, Sedition Laws aren't needed because the Fascist Right can just stamp out your rights. Or discredit your entire industry. Or jail the journalists themselves.
Freedom of the Press, be it in the form of Newspaper, Television, Radio, Podcast or Blog is vital to the core beliefs of our country. When our country starts imprisoning journalists... we are no better than Russia or Cuba or Iran or Iraq or any society that doesn't allow free speech.
Our country was weakened today. Our Freedom was limited today. And that's a shame.