Over the past few days we have seen a trruly remarkable and even more truly frightening occurrence, one I never thought I’d see in America. Legitimate reporters are not being allowed to cover the news and it’s happening all across our country. In a recent report, Reporters Without Borders raised concerns about the number of incidents in which credentialed reporters have been forcefully and physically prevented from covering police attacks on OWS encampments and the disparity in the legal outcome of their arrest. In part. their report says:
“Sometimes they are arrested and then set free almost immediately. Sometimes they are arrested and, before being released, are charged with unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct or lack of press credentials.During the recent blitzkrieg in Zuccotti Park reporters were physically restrained out of sight of the park, even hours after the park had been cleared and news helicopters were denied access to airspace overhead. A week earlier, Oakland, police fired a rubber bullet at video-reporter Scott Campbell, during a confrontation in which Campbell was not involved. Campbell was videoing during the incident and his video shows the officer fired simply because he felt like it. John Meador, a reporter for Nashville Scene Reporter was arrested during a demonstration outside the state capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 30 despite showing his press badge twice. I could go on listing names and incidents.
Journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement’s protests and marches are not only exposed to police brutality but also to a sort of judicial lottery when detained. The situation varies from state to state, according to local laws, but the freedom to report news and information is being violated almost everywhere, not only for professional journalists but also for bloggers and for activists who want to cover the protests themselves.
The other question is the very variable nature of the charges – sometimes maintained, sometimes dropped – that are brought against these people for ‘offences’ that are essentially identical. In the name of the constitutionally-enshrined right to receive and impart news and information, we call on the courts to dismiss all the charges against individuals who have been covering these demonstrations peacefully.”
From the Eurasia Review
We should all be greatly concerned. If the authorities who have the obligation to support the constitution feel free to ignore it, we all are at peril; if they are able to do so with impunity the future of freedom, all freedoms, becomes problematic in the extreme. If those same authorities are actively suppressing news in which the public is clearly very interested and they do so with immunity, the First Amendment has become largely without meaning. Perhaps, more than anyone else in the twentieth century, Joseph Goebbels recognized the absolute necessity of a free press to a democracy and the absolute imperative of control of propaganda to a tyranny.