Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Good afternoon:

Today is World Press Freedom Day.

The Freedom of the Press Clause in the First Amendment protects our right to know what our government is doing. Together with the Freedom of Speech Clause and the Freedom of Assembly Clause of the First Amendment, these three freedoms and the right to vote are essential to support our democracy.

Caroline Little, the president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, warns us today that governments around the world, including our own, are attacking journalists.

In May 2013, our nation learned about the secretive seizure of the phone records of Associated Press journalists. We soon learned that the intrusive monitoring was not isolated as Fox News James Rosen had been labeled a “possible co-conspirator” and his personal email and cell phone was monitored. The courts attempted to force New York Times reporter James Risen to disclose his confidential sources.

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Last July, Egypt’s authorities began targeting and arbitrarily persecuting local and foreign media members. Four Al-Jazeera reporters have been imprisoned since December for no clear crime.

In October, Queen Elizabeth signed a Royal Charter enabling government regulators to influence editorial content across media in England.

In the first three months of 2014, Russia launched a strategic assault on the last independent news station, and in March escalated its already strict censorship laws to target news sites.

Just weeks ago, Syria was named the most dangerous country for journalists, with a record of seven journalists murdered in 2013 and a rising number of targeted killings and abductions in the midst of the war.

Additionally, the Inter American Press Association passed a resolution – one we have added our voice to – condemning the actions in Venezuela where more than 100 journalists been arrested, threatened, or the victims of violence.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, who provide journalists with verified and reliable inside information that our government is committing crimes and violating our constitutional rights on a daily basis, also violates our right to know what our government is doing.

The right to vote does not mean anything, if voters are denied access to information they need to know to make informed decisions.

We the people purchased our democracy with blood sweat and tears. We rejected the so-called divine right of kings to govern us without our informed consent.

The United States Supreme Court also has undermined our democracy in three decisions that,

(1) eliminate restrictions on the amount of money that corporations can contribute to candidates running for political office;

(2) uphold state laws eliminating affirmative action policies for admission to state colleges and universities; and

(3) approve state laws gutting the 1964 Voting Rights Act.