Imprisoning the Press
Posted by jeremiasx on February 7, 2007
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Well Congress isn’t usually the offender…it’s the executive arm of government, especially the Justice Department and it’s affiliates, including the local and state branches of said entity that seem to be the offenders in the cases I’m going to talk about today.
Police Departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security seem hell-bent on infringing upon the rights of media to have access to properly report the news, to be able to report without fear of reprisal and prosecution, and to basically do their jobs without having to look over their backs at every turn when it comes to political issues and stories.
I’m going to cite a few cases I’ve taken interest in of late:
1. Harrassed in Hartford: As journalist Ken Krayeske stood quietly taking pictures of the governor during a parade in Hartford, Connecticut, state and local police converged on him, grabbed him, arrested him, handcuffed him, took him to the Hartford police station, put him in jail, charged him with breach of peace and interfering with a police officer, set bail at $75,000, transferred him to another jail, and released him 13 hours later on a promise to appear in court to answer these two charges.
Since that time…several Connecticut state lawmakers have come to the aid of Mr. Krayeske and spoken out about the outlandish actions of the police…apparantly Mr. Krayeske’s offense is having posted on his blog (or website) the night before the parade that he planned to protest some state program and that he would be doing such at the parade. Some law enforcement officials, tipped by the Homeland Security Department, took it upon themselves to remove this so-called “threat” by arresting him as he was standing in the street taking pictures of the Governor as he passed by in the parade. To my knowledge, at the time of his arrest…Mr. Krayeske was not protesting at all…he was merely taking pictures. This information comes from police reports detailing the incident.
2 . Give Me That Tape: Josh Wolf, 24, has spent 169 days in a federal prison after declining a federal subpoena for unaired videotape he shot of the chaotic July 2005 San Francisco street protest against the G-8 summit in Scotland. Anarchists allegedly vandalized a San Francisco police car during the melee, and an officer suffered a fractured skull after being struck.
“Josh is fighting a brave battle that – chillingly – an increasing number of journalists in the U.S. are facing,” said National Press Club president Jerry Zremski in a statement.
Wolf sold some of his protest footage to San Francisco television stations and posted parts of the video on his Web site. He and his lawyers have argued that the First Amendment gives him the right to refuse the subpoena to turn over the rest of the tape.
Some have questioned whether Wolf, an openly left-wing freelancer, was acting as a journalist at the protest rather than an active participant. His attorney, Martin Garbus, has said Wolf was there solely for newsgathering purposes.
3. Rat Out Your Sources: Here’s the one we’re mostly familiar with because of the recent attention given to the Scooter Libby trial. Ms. Judith Miller had until recently refused to testify before the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative, and the federal courts have ruled against her claims of privilege. Yet while special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald was legally entitled to take action against her, his judgment in doing so is highly questionable.
(my commentary begins hereafter)
The freedom of the press is an essential liberty. Without it, we are no more enlightened as to the events, sometimes crucially important, which shape our lives here in the United States any more than those who listened to Tokyo Rose in Japan…or conversely Bill O’Reilly on FoxNews, if he were to become our own U.S. exclusive news source (I know he’d like that, too!)…IMAGINE…if the only journalism that is allowed in our country is the type which pleasures the government, always praising, rarely criticizing…what good is it?
The reason I’m so concerned about these arrests is that with the type of bullying that the Justice Dept. and other minions are perpetrating…there is a consequence already…there will eventually be a watering down of news and events…even if that isn’t the intention, it will be the effect. I liken it to the scarcity of quality hemp products on the open market. I know this sounds like a crazy analogy…but bear with me.
If hemp product manufacturers face the tireless scrutiny and potential prosecution by the government (and they apparantly do) then they are far less likely to produce their wares, far less likely to have cooperation from distributors and retail outlets, and thereby I (the customer) am less likely to find quality hemp products at a reasonable price in any normal retail venue. In the end, the product manufacturer suffers and so do I.
[author’s note: I personally don’t purchase any hemp products…I am just using this as an analogy for the sake of argument…it was the first thing that came to mind.]
So it could end up with the media…and it’s getting closer to that point already…for various reasons. For one thing, the mass media is controlled to a huge extent by six major corporations…this is a fact that escapes most people. Now we can compound that with the aggravating factor of police scrutiny and bias of the judicial system against the freedom of the press to do it’s job without being prosecuted when they don’t wish to name sources, turn over material, or whatever reason they find to imprison journalists.
It is my earnest wish that all people in a democratic society have the access to substantive media and information, regardless of which side it comes from…left, right, or middle. It should not be infringed upon by any tangible or indirect means, yet the growing trend is the suppression, stifling, or outright burial of news and information which could possibly enlighten our society and help us progress as individuals or otherwise.
The freedoms we are guaranteed by our Bill of Rights are not a partisan issue…they affect us all, and if we don’t start standing up for them…they could indeed be taken away. It’s happened before, and it could happen again, if we ALLOW it.