The past year has seen some extraordinary American news reporting – touching accounts of death and dying In the COVID-19 wards of the hospital During the darkest hours of a pandemic, spotlighting the press about the inner workings from the plague.
Elsewhere, there have been tireless investigations into dozens of fake news sites (outside Macedonia, of all places) used to distort voter perceptions in the 2016 election. Other journalists have unveiled a heart-wrenching audio recording of immigrant children crying as they were picked up from their parents at the border, or delving into the source obtained Donald Trump’s financial documents that showed How he paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017.
Journalists in a free society do not have subpoena power to obtain this type of sensitive material. Nor can they enter hospital wards to observe the most intimate moments of human struggle. Their success depends on a delicate interaction of trust and professional integrity at both ends of the news process: from gathering information from hesitant sources, to informing the sometimes skeptical audience.
It is a fragile process that can easily be damaged or disrupted by government officials who do not care or think about the consequences of their actions. It is for this reason that the Founding Fathers, in their boundless wisdom, drafted an amendment that first bans any laws that limit freedom of the press.
Unfortunately, this is a freedom that bosses often overlook.
That is why it was recently revealed Efforts by the Trump and Biden administrations to seize newspaper records It is very worrying. (Similar aggressive tactics were used By the Obama administration to plug the leaks.)
Shortly before its term expired, the Trump administration secretly obtained reporters’ phone records with CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. The New York Times reported that the Biden administration has continued to press for Email records of four of its correspondents.
Finally, there was news on Friday that the FBI began a process in April to obtain a subpoena to track information about USA TODAY readers who viewed Online article published in February. The news story was about a suspect in a child pornography case who killed two FBI agents working on a search warrant before killing himself. The agents said the reader’s information was necessary to conduct a criminal investigation.
The good news is that after the subpoena was announced on Friday, The Ministry of Justice announced Saturday The order was dropped.
All of this was revealed despite President Joe Biden’s pledge last month that interference with press freedom such as seizing a reporter’s phone records is “Wrong, it is simply simply wrong خطأ. I won’t let that happen.”
May’s note was finally translated into policy on Saturday when Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement that the Ministry of Justice will no longer issue subpoenas for the records of correspondents in the leak investigations.
If USA TODAY wins an adjournment on this case, it is worrying that the FBI was too quick to seek a subpoena in the first place.
Handing over government personal information about readers—while under a different circumstance than disclosing reporters’ sources—can certainly infringe readers’ trust in this publication and its news coverage.
That’s why USA TODAY publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth called the FBI’s move.A clear violation of the First Amendment. “
In opposing the subpoena, attorneys for Gannett, which owns USA TODAY, cited Supreme Court Justice William O. The papers. Already the beginning of press control مراقبة. “
Indeed, there is an ongoing tension between the government’s duty to investigate crimes or protect sensitive national security information and the constitutional right to an unrestricted press. But there can be tangential ways to bridge the gap through negotiation. There have been many cases in which news organizations have refused to release some national security secrets after speaking with federal officials.
Indeed, in recognition of this alternative, Justice Department policies call on investigators to explore contacting media organizations first to resolve requests. But the FBI did not follow that policy in the USA TODAY case.
After four years of Trump and his relentless attacks on news organizations as “fake news,” a mantra adopted by autocrats around the world as a way to crush dissent, trust in traditional media is at an all-time low.
However, the validity of democracy depends on accurate information – getting it and distributing it fairly.
When any administration now or in the future weighs whether it will pursue, in a one-time manner, the source of a reporter or a reader’s identifying information, it should err in favor of First Amendment monitoring. Otherwise, he risks dismantling the free press, which is a vital American institution.