Our Voices Arkansas

The Voices of Grassroots Conservatives Across Arkansas

Mar 28, 2014

Media Shield Bill Subverts Free Speech, Press

On Tuesday this past week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D, New York) claimed the Senate “has enough votes” to pass the so-called “Media Shield Bill” that attempts to subvert the Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech and a free press in our country. We sure didn’t realize this issue had come around again!  Seems the...

by OurVoicesAR

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liberty-waitsOn Tuesday this past week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D, New York) claimed the Senate “has enough votes” to pass the so-called “Media Shield Bill” that attempts to subvert the Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech and a free press in our country.

We sure didn’t realize this issue had come around again!  Seems the Obama White House, in the wake of the AP phone records scandal, had contacted Schumer in May 2013 and asked him to reintroduce the failed 2009 Media Shield Bill.

Then the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the legislation last September on a 13-5 bipartisan vote after discussing “who can be a journalist” and exemptions due to national security concerns.

Schumer’s comments drew notice because the current S987, “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013” co-sponsored by Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina), has been on the Senate’s legislative calendar awaiting floor action since early November, 2013.

Responding to Schumer last week, Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn (R, Texas) tore into the bill, saying

Schumer’s proposal is fatally flawed and may be an unworkable idea altogether.  It’s totally inconsistent with the notion of a free press and the First Amendment.

They want to pick and choose which journalists are covered,.  In other words, if you’re a blogger they might not cover you, but if you work for the New York Times they might.

Given the changes in the way we get information and the way we consume news, that really smacks to me in essence of government licensing who’s an official ‘journalist’ for the purposes of a shield law and who’s not.

If there is one thing I can glean from the First Amendment, it is that government should not be in the business of licensing the news media.

What is this Media Shield Law?

A direct affront on our free speech and free press rights, the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013” defines “real journalists” so the federal government can “protect our free press from potential prosecution by a government insisting their confidential sources be revealed.”

Judicial Committee member Progressive Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, California) says the legal protections should only extend to “real reporters” and not a “17-year-old with his own website.”  The author of the bill’s language defining “journalist” in this digital age, Feinstein added, “I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege.”

Mainstream News Organizations Push for Federal Law

right-to-recordProgressives point out the idea of a federal shield law has been around since at least 2005 — after the Valerie Plame/CIA leak scandal that year — and say it is responsive to various mainstream news and reporting organizations who continue to push the federal government to “protect them” from revealing confidential sources.

One of the myriad unanticipated consequences of Edward Snowden’s infamous theft of U.S. intelligence information is that the mainstream press is using the the Wikileaks scandal to bolster their position on the issue.  According to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE):

The debate over the (Media Shield) Act has taken a twist in the wake of the WikiLeaks saga, where 91,000 secret documents regarding the conflict in Afghanistan were leaked.

We view this as an apples-and-oranges debate; posting raw data on a web site, without the fact-checking, examination of the possible motivations of the leaker, and an analysis of the potential fallout of the information, is a far cry from journalism.

Journalism is digging into oil disasters, threats to our food system, Watergate, military contractor scandals and a thousand other stories that have occurred when concerned citizens came and blew the whistle.

It’s extremely telling that the mainstream press says they want to protect all “concerned citizens;” however, the Media Shield Bill creates a special class of free press reporters.  Those social media, blogger, “concerned citizen” reporters are not the group the law would protect — only those mainstream news organizations that operate as businesses “for pay” are covered.

Fogging the Issue

free-pressBut — all the discussion about these details really just fogs the issue.

Do alarm bells ring for you when mainstream media and Progressives are working together to legislate “protection” for our free press?

American citizens wouldn’t find out half of what know today about our government without citizen journalists — those blogs, tweets, and first-person YouTube videos that tell the real first-hand stories, the ones the government and the press don’t really want you to see.

We don’t have to tell you this “protection” these Progressives want to foist on us is a perverted twisting of what’s already ours under the Bill of Rights: the right to free speech and a free press, unbound by government’s idea of what is politically allowable speech.

Says Rick Manning, Vice President of Public Policy & Communications for Americans for Limited Government:

“Born out of the legacy of the Revolutionary War pamphleteers and their radical thoughts of freedom, today these liberty lovers take the form of citizen journalists utilizing the Internet to push ideas, advocate, report and uncover stories that aren’t being told, afflicting the powerful and holding them accountable.  This has been at the heart of press freedom…

Failure to convey the same First Amendment protections to all people, whether they are paid or not, strikes at the heart of the basis of our nation’s most precious freedoms…”

We must not stand by and allow the mainstream press and Congress to subvert our rights in the guise of “protecting” us!

We must speak truth to power:  Public outcry recently stopped the FCC in its thwarted plan to put watchdogs in pressrooms supposedly to study how news is written and collected.  We all must recognize this Media Shield Law is much more of a threat than any FCC newsroom study.

MAKE NO MISTAKE, OUR RIGHTS ARE UNDER ATTACK.

CONTACT YOUR U.S. SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES TODAY.
 TELL THEM TO VOTE “NO” on the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013.

AND TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW IN OTHER STATES TO DO THE SAME.

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