In the midst of the furor over whistleblowers and the revelations from Wikileaks and The Guardian, there has been an on going war with journalists waged by the Obama administration should be of great concern for the American people. Marcy Wheeler made note of this phenomenon in July after it was revealed the attorney General Eric Holder had labeled Fox News reporter James Rosen a criminal co-conspirator in a case under investigation by the DOJ. After denying he had signed off on a secret warrant to search Rosen’s private e-mails, Holder admitted he authorized the warrant. Along with the DOJ taping the phone lines of the Associated Press, Holder issued new “News Media Policies,” (pdf)
As Marcy reported, those guidelines were a step towards creating an “official press.” If that isn’t a clearly an intent to put limits on the First Amendment, in steps California Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is backing the Media Shield Law which would define journalist as those who are paid by news agencies
A real reporter, declared Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, is “a salaried agent” of a media company like the New York Times or ABC News, not a “shoestring operation with volunteers and writers who are not paid.”
Feinstein voiced her concern “that the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to people who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications,” like bloggers and citizen journalists.
She and her fellow Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Dick Durban want to limited who can be a journalist leaving bloggers and independent journalist without First Amendment protections:
Take the case of Crystal Cox, for example. A self-described “investigative blogger” from Seattle, Cox broke a story about financial malpractice at a major investment bank, prompting a lawsuit for defamation.
Cox argued in court that she should be covered by Oregon’s shield laws, but a judge found she was not protected because she was not part of the traditional media.
As a result, she was ordered to pay $2.5 million to the investment firm.
The laws in many states are lagging behind the reality of journalism today, where anyone with a camera, smart phone or a computer can break an important story.
“The distinction between who gets paid to do journalism and who doesn’t is going to be come essentially meaningless as we go forward with this technological revolution,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
McBride, the recent author of a book on journalism ethics in the Internet age, said shield laws are meant to ensure a vibrant marketplace of ideas where all voices can be heard.
“To the extent that you limit the shield law, you limit who is in that marketplace,” she said.
This is an outrageous assault on the press and the First Amendment.
“our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”